MANILA, PHILIPPINES - For the first time in decades, Kabul is receiving a steady supply of electricity thanks to a major new transmission line linking Afghanistan's capital with neighboring Uzbekistan.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is one of the largest partners in constructing a 420-kilometer transmission corridor carrying electricity across some of the most challenging mountainous terrain on earth. The ADB portion of the new line runs more than half this total distance, beginning at Afghanistan's northern border and weaving 217 km south to Pul-e-Khumri.
The government of Uzbekistan contributed to the effort and constructed a new transmission link on its side of the border to complete the route that now supplies power to its southern neighbor. Some 90 megawatts of electricity is currently flowing along the Uzbekistan line, and a full 150 MW is expected to reach Kabul by the end of this year.
"For the first time in more than a generation, Kabul's four million people can now enjoy the benefits of a stable source of electricity," said Juan Miranda, Director General of ADB's Central and West Asia Department. "This is one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in Afghanistan, and underscores ADB's commitment to rebuild the country's shattered infrastructure."
The new transmission corridor is part of the massive North East Power System (NEPS) project that has been undertaken by a range of partners including the United States, Germany, Japan, India, World Bank, and Islamic Development Bank.
ADB's Afghanistan Country Director Craig Steffensen said the new line is the first step in building a network that will eventually connect many other parts of the country that still lack electricity.
"In addition to this project, ADB is providing $56.5 million in financing to build new transmission lines linking Afghanistan and Tajikistan, which will further increase power supply to the NEPS," said Mr. Steffensen. "A further $50 million loan and grant assistance package will help connect some 1.2 million people in rural Afghanistan to the network."
The ADB has so far committed some $300 million in loan agreements to the power system, making the energy sector one of the largest components of ADB's overall Afghanistan portfolio. A further $570 million in ADB funds has been earmarked for the energy sector in the coming years.