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British consultants to bid for Afghan rebuild

NEWS

BRITISH CONSULTANTS are poised to get involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, after world leaders pledged more than £3bn in aid at a twoday donor conference in Tokyo this week.

As many as 35 British firms, ranging from major consultants to agricultural specialists, have expressed interest in rebuilding the country.

Money pledged to Afghanistan so far is based on a preliminary needs assessment prepared jointly by the United Nations development programme, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

The assessment calls for funding of £1.2bn in the first year, rising to £12bn over 10 to cover construction work and re-establishment of health and education services, police, social services, national and local governments.

It is estimated that £3.4bn needs to be spent on infrastructure over 10 years, with £120M required immediately.

The report identifies a programme of activities from shortterm priorities to longer term development, and stresses that international engineering firms will be vital in seeing the programme through.

But construction industry overseas promotion agency BCCB was cautious about the scope of work on what it described as a World Bank 'wishlist'.

BCCB chief executive Colin Adams said: 'British companies are ready and willing to go, but we really have to stress the need to be realistic.

'We are waiting for a coherent dictate from the Department for International Development (DFID) and, in any case, it will take a long time for the security situation to be resolved.'

Security outside Kabul remains a big issue. This week a DFID team, four British embassy officials and an MI6 officer were robbed at gunpoint while visiting a hydro-electric power station east of Kabul.

Once security issues are resolved, consultant Binnie Black & Veatch is expected to be one of the first in, having been forced to abandon work on Kabul's water system when the Taleban took control of the country in 1994.

'Strictly speaking, we still have a contract in Afghanistan, and we would very much like to complete it, ' said BBV deputy chairman Chris Binnie.

'We have people who know the system, we have documents on the system and we have people who are willing to go back when security is adequate.'

Essential repairs to urban piped systems are identified as an immediate priority, with expansion planned to serve a further 1.9M people within the next two and a half years.

Similarly for roads, where most of the infrastructure funding will be directed, the immediate task is to remove all bottlenecks. These include collapsed bridges, disintegrated pavements and damaged tunnels on the core highway network comprising the national ring road and border links.

Detailed plans for the reconstruction programme will be drawn up after the needs assessment team has visited Kabul this week.

Rebuild details

Infrastructure improvements in the World Bank's 10 year £12bn wishlist for Afghanistan include:

Water: £170M for repair and expansion of urban water supply facilities; £160M for provision of sustainable rural water supply.

Roads: £735M to upgrade 2,500km of the national 'ring-road'; £280M for labour based construction of a central highway from Herat to Pule Matak and HeratShiberghan section of ring-road; £490M for upgrading 8,000km of two-lane secondary roads and single lane tertiary roads to blacktop standard; £140M for construction of rural access roads; £70M for 250km of urban roads.

Air: £50M capital investment to rehabilitate eight major airports.

Energy: £930M capital investment including £700M to double pre-war electricity capacity to 900MW.

Agriculture: £210M for restorating and developing irrigation systems.

Health: £350M for restoration and rehabilitation of hospitals, health centres and women's clinics.

Housing: £91M for emergency shelters.

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