"Based on a presidential decree, the ministry of public works has launched a fundamental development plan for the Salang Highway," a news agency reported citing Minister of Public Works Najibullah Auodjan while telling a gathering.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and several high-ranking officials also attended the National Conference on Development of Salang Highway for Next 50 Years held amid tight security at a hall near the presidential palace.

Karzai described the project as vitally important for the country's economy and social welfare. The highway goes through the 2.6 km Salang Tunnel in Hindu Kush mountains between Parwan and Baghlan provinces.  The plan has six options, including building of a parallel road and an extra tunnel in the Salang Pass, which is 3,000 metres above the sea.

The project will cost over USD 1 billion, the minister said. The tunnel, built in 1960s, was designed for traffic of 6,000 vehicles a day; however, over 16,000 vehicles currently pass through it per day. The new project will allow 32,000 vehicles to pass through Salang Pass daily after it is completed, the minister said.


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