DUSHANBE, January 25, 2011, Asia-Plus / -- The work on installation of ventilation and lighting facilities in the Istiqlol Tunnel will begin in April this year, Minister of Transport and Communications Olimjon Boboyev told reporters in Dushanbe today.

According to him, Iran last year provided a US$5 million grant for this purposes.  “Besides, the government of Iran has provided additional US$2 million for full completion of the project,” the minister said.

Boboyev added that all works at the tunnel must be completed by the 20th anniversary of Tajikistan’s Independence, which will be marked on September 9 this year.

We will recall that one of the most serious problems at the tunnel is underground waters.  Iran’s Saber International began to build the tunnel in September 2003, but in June 2010 it was replaced by another Iranian company, Sangab, which has been constructing the Sangtuda-2 power plant and dam in southern Tajikistan.  Sangab is currently working to remove the underground waters leak.

The Istiqlol Tunnel, better known among the population as the Anzob Tunnel, has been built with assistance of Iranian specialists.  The total project cost was estimated at 40 million US dollars, and Iran has provided US$10 million in a form of grant and extended a preferential loan worth US$21 million to Tajikistan.  The tunnel makes the highway from Dushanbe to Khujand open for traffic the whole year round and drops the transit time by four to five hours.  An official opening ceremony of the Istiqlol Tunnel was held in July 2006; however, there are still some uncompleted works.

The Istiqlol Tunnel is a five kilometer long road tunnel located 80 kilometers northwest of Dushanbe.  It connects the Tajik capital to Tajikistan’s second largest city, Khujand.  It is also a transit route between Dushanbe and Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent.  Previously, especially during the cold seasons, a lack of a direct link between northern and southern Tajikistan led to disruptions of commerce.