DUSHANBE, May 12 (The Conway Bulletin) — Leaders from Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan flew to Dushanbe to officially launch the start of construction of the CASA-1000 project, which they hope will give regional trade a boost.
CASA-1000 is the $1.2b World Bank backed project that policy makers hope will transform the economies of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, bolster stability in Afghanistan and boost power supplies in Pakistan.
The plan is simple — to build an electricity supply route from hydropower stations in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, across Afghanistan and into Pakistan. But it has its detractors. Many analysts have argued that Afghanistan is simply too unstable to host a network of transmission lines and that power generation capacities in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are too temperamental.
Still, in Dushanbe, at the official ceremony to kick off production, the leaders were upbeat.
Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon, hosted the ceremony. He said that the project would work and that it would have a number of positive side effects.
“This will promote solutions to a number of social, economic and environmental protection problems in all four countries,” he was quoted by media as saying.
The CASA-1000 transmission line will run for 1,222km and should be complete by 2018. It will transmit 1,300 megawatts of electricity, most of it to Pakistan.
Also at the ceremony were Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, and Kyrgyz Prime Minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov.
Western diplomats conceived the plan a few years ago as part of a new north-south Silk Road, although it has been the various local leaders with finance from the World Bank who have pushed it through.
>>This story was first published on May 13 2016 in issue 280 of The Conway Bulletin newspaper