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The Killid Group
How long before gas in pipeline?Written by Shoaib Tanha
Sunday, 01 January 2012 15:35
Little has happened on the TAPI natural gas project involving four countries a year after the agreement was signed by the governments.
When it is implemented natural gas from Turkmenistan will be transported through a pipeline to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, a distance of 1,680 kms. The project, which took 15 years on the drawing board, was approved by the four governments last December. Nearly a year later another step to operationalise the multi-nation project called TAPI, a combination of the first letters of the names of the four countries, took place in Islamabad during the visit of Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhawedow. On Nov. 13 an agreement on gas sales purchase was signed by the heads of Pakistan's Inter-State Gas System and Turkmenistan Gas Trade Concern. Planners are promising the project could be in operation by 2016.
The gas pipeline will transport 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas (bcfd) from Turkmenistan through eastern and south eastern Afghanistan including Herat, Farah, Helmand and Kandahar to Pakistan and then onwards to Fazilka in India. Under the agreement, Afghanistan's share will be 500 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd); Pakistan's 1,325 mmcfd and India's 1,325 mmcfd. The multi-billion dollar project has been bankrolled by the Asian Development Bank (AsDB) and World Bank.
Gas from Turkmenistan was at the heart of a legal battle between the Argentinean company Bridas that first proposed the idea and the US UNOCAL, which came in later with Hamid Karzai and former Bush personal representative and US Ambassador Zalmai Khalilzad as consultants. UNOCAL went on to win over Bridas but was checkmated when the Taleban government turned down Washington's request for authorisation to build the pipeline
The TAPI project belongs to the Ministry of Mines the spokesman Jawad Omar said. Work which was delayed by security concerns will start from early 2012 and finish in two years, he was optimistic. Afghanistan is committed to providing security for the pipeline, he confirmed. Political expert Jamshed Nekjo believes it is imperative for the government to honour the deal or it could lose an "exceptional" opportunity.
That apart there are concerns that Iran, which had hoped to sell natural gas to India through a pipeline that passed through Pakistan, may be trying to sabotage the project. Because of Iran's problems with the US and the West, there is much less international backing for a market for Iran's gas, Nekjo points out.
According to another expert, Emadi, "Iran tried to implement the project via Pakistan but it could not get its goal, therefore it is trying to sabotage this type of project by supporting the opponents of the government." Parts of Herat district adjoining Turkmenistan are the most disturbed in the province. Tankers carrying oil and gas from Turkmenistan often come under armed attack.
Abdul Rawoof Ahmadi, spokesman of the police zone number 606 of Ansar west, promised security for the pipeline. "Though we are faced with lack of infrastructure we will still do our best to assure the security of this big economic project," he said. Herat's deputy governor Aseeludin Jami has promised the province will protect the pipeline and implement the project.
TAPI will create job opportunities for half a million people in the four provinces it passes through - Herat, Farah, Kandahar and Helmand - according to deputy minister of economic affairs, Nazeer Ahmad Shahidi. It will also strengthen relations between the four partner countries in the region.
Ghulam Nabi Qazi Zada, deputy minister of water and energy was optimistic the project if successful would light up the homes of thousands of Afghan families.
Political activist Mohammad Nayeem Ghuyoor thinks the government needs to be more "decisive". Members of Parliament need to coerce the government to be more decisive in implementing the project, he said.
We made many attempts to interview authorities in the Indian and Turkmenistan consulates in Herat on the progress in the project but there was no response.