Japan's Official Development Assistance White Paper 2005

Column II-5 Connecting to a Bright Future: Pak-Japan Friendship Tunnel

Location of Kohat Tunnel
Location of Kohat Tunnel

Kohat Tunnel. Friendship Tunnel written on the sign placed above the tunnel (Photo: JBIC)
Kohat Tunnel. "Friendship Tunnel" written on the sign placed above the tunnel (Photo: JBIC)

On National Highway 55 (generally called the "Indus Highway") that traverses north to south through Pakistan, the Kohat Pass is located in the central region of the North-West Frontier Province that touches on the Afghanistan border. The Kohat Pass has long been considered dangerous because of its narrow roads and many sharp slopes and curves. Obstructed views caused frequent major traffic accidents, resulting in nearly 30 deaths per year, while large vehicles were unable to drive through this pass and needed to take major detours. In order to ease traffic congestion and ensure safety on the Kohat Pass, at the request of the government of Pakistan, Japan provided yen loan to the "Kohat Tunnel Construction Project," under which construction of the largest road tunnel in Pakistan (total length: 1,885 meters) and of the approaching roads on both ends (total length: approximately 30 kilometers) was conducted. This project began in 1999 and was completed with the new route, which connected the two districts in the North-West Frontier Province by the shortest possible distance, enabled in June 2003. A local driver remarked, "There was a lot of reporting on it, so I knew that the Kohat Tunnel was going to be built. I've long wanted to see it done."

Now the users of National Highway 55 do not have to use the old, dangerous Kohat Pass. Instead, they are able to drive safely through the newly completed Kohat Tunnel in even less time. According to another driver, it used to take almost three hours to go through the Kohat Pass, but it now takes less than one hour. It is also expected to promote economic development in Northern Pakistan by improving distribution efficiency and enhancing transportation capacity to northern Afghanistan because the traffic congestion has been alleviated and large vehicles, such as long trailers, are able to drive through. In fact, traffic volume, which was approximately 110,000 vehicles immediately after the opening of the tunnel in July 2003, increased to approximately 190,000 by April 2005. In particular, the number of large trucks increased from around 2,500 to 8,500.

Pakistan appreciates this project so highly that the completed Kohat Tunnel was named "Pak-Japan Friendship Tunnel." President Musharraf attended the completion ceremony himself, and stated in his speech, "On behalf of the Pakistani people, I would like to express my gratitude for Japan's assistance and contribution. Pakistan will never forget the assistance provided by Japan." As a testament to this, a commemorative postage stamp was issued by the government of Pakistan for the 50th anniversary of Japan's ODA featuring an image of the Kohat Tunnel.

As a symbol of friendship between Japan and Pakistan, the Kohat Tunnel will continue to contribute to the future development of Pakistan.