The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Wednesday the three countries needed to postpone the $2.5 billion trans-Afghan gas pipeline project and also delay short-listing construction companies qualified to build it.

The bank issued its statement after oil and gas ministers from the south Asian states advised of continuing issues with "a route survey for the southern route through Herat, Kandahar, Quetta and Multan”.

Cause of delay

To date, no official estimates of reserves in the Dauletabad gas fields in Turkmenistan have been calculated.

Nor has there been a finalisation of the Host Country Agreement, the Gas Sales and Purchase Agreements or the Gas Transportation Agreement, according to ADB.
  


"Process ... put on hold until all the ongoing studies are completed"

Seethapathy Chander,
ADB finance director

"A number of companies have shown interest in being pre-qualified for undertaking the construction and operation of the pipeline," said Seethapathy Chander, director of ADB's private sector infrastructure finance division.
  
"However, it was decided in the sixth meeting of the Steering Committee held in Ashgabat during 25-26 June 2003 that the solicitation process would be put on hold until all the ongoing studies are completed."

Big plans

The pipeline has been on the drawing board for about 20 years, delayed by war and also Taliban’s political disinterest in the project.  
  
The aim is to transport up to 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually from the Dauletabad fields in southeast Turkmenistan to consumers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and possibly India.
  
The committee invited the Manila-based ADB last year to play the role of "lead development partner" as well as to help prepare a feasibility study.

The bank has already approved a million-dollar technical assistance grant to undertake such a study.
  
ADB says the project has significant potential to improve stability and raise living standards in South and Central Asia.