KUNDUZ -- Kunduz officials have launched the first phase of a master plan for expanding Kunduz city, the provincial capital.
The plan, which will expand the western part of the city, includes covering 8km of road with asphalt and building 25 bridges at a estimated cost of 249 million AFN ($3 million), allocated to the project by the Afghan government.
The project will cover the expansion of the road from Azadi Chowk in Bandar-e-Kabul, Kunduz city, to the Do-Saraka area of Kunduz airport, and will include the construction of road medians and sidewalks, acting Kunduz Governor Najibullah Omarkhail told reporters during the inauguration ceremony for the plan July 5.
The 8km-long road is 6 metres wide. Completion of the road and bridge project is expected in 14 months, he said.
The project also includes the repair and restoration of all damaged urban facilities and services, including the water supply system, power lines, fiber optic network, canals and sidewalks, Omarkhail said, adding that the project is critical for the people of Kunduz.
"The urban master plan project was one of the main demands of the residents of Kunduz. It fortunately began today," he said. "With its completion, the western road of Kunduz city will be widened, addressing traffic congestion."
The project will create more than 2,000 jobs, he added.
Most of the houses and land affected by the master plan belong to the Spin Ghar Authority, said Zabihullah Zahid, director of that agency, which falls under the auspices of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
"The detailed master plan was prepared in the solar year 1397 (three years ago) and approved by the president," he said. "We deliberately chose a plan that would cause less damage to private shops, land and property."
Those who might suffer negative impact from the project should apply to the governor's office for compensation, he said.
All vehicles en route to Central Asia from Kabul and other provinces will pass through the route where the master plan is being implemented, said Zabihullah Majidi, a civil society activist in Kunduz province.
"For years, traffic would get jammed for hours and accidents would happen since the road is narrow, but with the completion of this project, many issues faced by the people of the province will be resolved," he said.
Planners designed Kunduz city during the presidency (1973-1978) of Mohammed Daud Khan. Given population growth since then, all the city's roads need expansion, he said.
The launch of the Kunduz city master plan was one of President Ashraf Ghani's campaign promises, Omarkhail noted.
The implementation of other phases of the master plan will follow, he said.
Omarkhail called on the public to co-operate with the government in protecting the project and not to allow the Taliban to destroy roads and public property at the behest of foreigners.
Kunduz residents welcomed the launch of the project and called on the Taliban to end violence and take part in the construction work.
The project is launched at a time when civilians are uncertain about their future, said Abdul Jalil, a resident of Kunduz city.
"The launch of the urban master plan gives us hope for our future in the country."
It's true that there is war, but such development projects provide employment opportunities for Afghan youth, he said.
Such steps by the government make the public optimistic about the future, he added.
Abdul Ali, 47, who has no last name and is employed under the master plan, said he is earning 500 AFN ($6) each day.
"It is a win-win situation -- I earn halal food for my family while building my country," he said.
"Our country will prosper if the Taliban end fighting and violence," he added. "Our people and youth will have jobs, and our youth will not have to leave the country anymore."