Buying snow trucks to save lives in Afghanistan
Eight snow removal trucks have been delivered to Kabul, to help clear a vital transportation network connecting north and south Afghanistan.
The heavy-duty vehicles were purchased and delivered by UNOPS on behalf of the Government of Japan, using an emergency procurement process in order to get the first three trucks in place for the worst of the winter season.
“Flying in the three trucks urgently at a cost of $515,000, instead of going through the shipping process which would have taken 10 months, is a testimony to the Government of Japan’s long-standing and unwavering commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” said H.E. Mr Seiji Okada, Chargé d'Affaires of the Embassy of Japan.
The trucks were bought by UNOPS sustainable procurement practice, a central procurement resource for the United Nations system. The vehicles are supporting the work of the Ministry of Public Works and the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) to ensure safe travel during the winter. Each truck is equipped with a snow plough and a sand and salt spreader. Clearing the roads of snow helps minimize traffic casualties, provides the local population with access to basic services and facilitates trade.
Government personnel have been trained to operate and maintain the vehicles, building national capacity for disaster management and ensuring the sustainability of the project.
The Salang tunnel and its road system are a vital element in the transportation network of Afghanistan. Located at an altitude of 3,400 meters, the Salang Pass links nine northern provinces to the rest of the country and serves as the only ground transport and trade route between the north and south.
An estimated 2,500 vehicles carrying up to 10,000 passengers use the Salang tunnel every day though every winter, heavy snowfall and frequent avalanches prevent free and safe passage. Prior to the delivery of the trucks, it took up to seven days to clear the Salang Pass roads following a storm. Goods that could be transported from northern Afghanistan to Kabul in less than 10 hours when the tunnel was operational, could take more than seven times as long when the tunnel was not functioning properly.
These delays significantly hamper the flow of goods and people and can cause great economic and humanitarian damage. Maintaining the safety and operability of the roads during harsh winter months is therefore a key element in Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development.
Six of the snow removal trucks are clearing snow in the Salang Pass, while an additional two are serving Ghor Province. Road access to villages in the mountainous province and Ghor’s capital city, Chaghcharan, is often limited due to heavy snowfall and severe winter conditions, preventing the local population from accessing basic health services, adequate food supplies, and work opportunities.
“Japan, as a disaster prone country that suffers many kinds of natural disasters, including tsunamis and heavy snowfalls, is pleased to be working with UNOPS to support Afghanistan in taking effective measures for snow clearance and avalanche prevention,” said Mr Okada.