While writing an article about a mobile phone operator in the central Asian republic (and yes, it actually is a republic) of Tajikistan, I did a bit of background reading – and found out about the Anzob Tunnel.
The Anzob Tunnel is a five kilometer long tunnel located 80km northwest of Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe. It connects the Tajik capital to its second largest city, Khujand. The cost of building the tunnel was largely paid for by the Iranian government, and President Ahmadinejad formally opened the tunnel to traffic in July 2006.
The tunnel is part of a planned road which would run from Iran through Herat in western Afghanistan, Mazar-i-Sharif and Sherkhan Bandar in northern Afghanistan to Tajikistan and from there up to China. The route has been named the new Silk Road.
The purpose of the tunnel is to go under the Anob pass – which is often blocked during the winter months and is a considerable impediment to trade. In the Soviet era, a road winding through neighbouring Uzbekistan would provide access, but disputes between the two countries means that is no longer an option. As a result, Tajikistan is effectively split in half every winter. Now that the tunnel has been opened – this is not an issue anymore.
I found this quite amazing video on YouTube of a cycle ride through the recently opened tunnel – and you will see that their definition of a “finished tunnel” might be a bit different from ours.
UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (pdf file – contains map of the route on page 9)