DUSHANBE, January 21, 2011, Asia-Plus  -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing a $120 million grant to help Tajikistan upgrade a vital road linking the capital Dushanbe with the Uzbekistan border.

A grant agreement was inked in Dushanbe on January 20 by Tajik Finance Minister Safarali Najmiddinov and ADB’s Country Director for Tajikistan Joji Tokeshi.

The road is part of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Corridor 3 that spans almost 7,000 km from the Russian Federation in the north to the Persian Gulf in the south.

The 62-kilometer highway passes through the Hissar Valley and the town of Tursunzoda - two major economic areas in Tajikistan.  Hissar Valley has the largest agricultural output in the country, producing cotton, grain, fruits, and vegetables. Tursunzoda is home to Central Asia''s largest aluminum processing plant as well as light industry.

According to press release issued by the ADB on January 20, the grant will finance road upgrading and improvements to drainage structures and bridges.

The grant will also improve facilities at the Dusti border, which handles about 50,000 vehicles per year, or a quarter of Tajikistan''s cross-border vehicles and freight. The project will include connecting the border point to a dependable power source, building modern customs buildings, and installing new information technology, all of which will help increase trade and cut waiting time at the border.

The grant will be sourced from the Asian Development Fund and the project is expected t be finished until January 30, 2015.

CAREC is a partnership of 10 countries--Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People''s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan--and six multilateral institutions: ADB, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Monetary Fund, Islamic Development Bank, United Nations Development Program, and World Bank. Together, the CAREC partners work to promote effective regional cooperation in the priority areas of transport, trade, and energy, helping Central Asian and neighboring countries realize their vast economic potential. ADB has served as CAREC Secretariat since 2001.

ADB’s assistance program in Tajikistan focuses on improving infrastructure, promoting private sector development and business environment, as well as fostering closer regional ties. Since 1998, ADB has approved a total of about $700 million in concessional loans, grants and technical assistance to the country.