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Afghanistan: China Kick-Starting Industrial Kabul New City

According to a video posted on Youtube by the U.S. website “Construct Worldwide,” “the Taliban, the Ministry of Urban development and a Chinese construction firm have come to a groundbreaking deal to begin the large industrial town in Kabul’s Deh Sab’s district.”

The project, it says, “will develop 150 factories at an estimated cost of $216 million. By signing this agreement, 13,000 people will get jobs directly and 30,000 people will get jobs indirectly. This Chinese business venture is set to shake up Afghanistan’s economy like never before, turning the tide and opening doors to new opportunities. After more than 60 years of constant instability, chaos and devastating wars, Afghanistan is finally making progress. With international assistance most Afghans have lived in extreme poverty for most of the past years lacking basic necessities like clean drinking water, paved roads and irrigation systems for agriculture.”

The required upgrade of agriculture, wiping out opium production, will free up a part of the workforce for precisely the industrial jobs being created.

Deh Sab is the urban area chosen by the Afghan government for a vast urban reconstruction project known as Kabul New City (KNC), covering an area of 722 square kilometers in the north-east of the capital city of Kabul, aiming to accommodate a population of 4 million people. KNC was designed in 2006 with the support of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and approved by the cabinet in 2009. The city is strategically planned to unfold over 30 years, but its implementation is behind schedule. Despite huge obstacles, in August 2023, the construction of parcel B, the first phase of KNC, was inaugurated through the signing of a contract between the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing (MoUDH) and Khawar Construction Company (KCC) as the developer.

In December 2023, a video posted on YouTube by Isaar Media reported that “With over 1,500 directly employed and 2,500 contributing indirectly. The project’s first phase rapidly makes progress. Originally envisioned with a modern Japanese design for high-end and expensive homes, the project took the turn towards affordability. It’s not just about constructing buildings but it is about creating homes that people can truly afford over the next five years. The different phases of this project promise a complete transformation over 15 years.” The re-think brought the investment for KNC down from $80 to $7 billion dollars.

In this dynamic, Kabul’s dramatic and acute water breakdown crisis needs urgent solutions. Iran, China, Russia and Turkey are contenders to construct a 120 km water conveyance system, bringing water from the Panjshir river from Bazarak to Tarakhel in Northern Kabul, offering water for some 2 million people, close to half or one third of the capital’s population.

Noteworthy is the fact that Acting Minister of Industry and Commerce Nooruddin Azizi on June 24 announced that a new law pertaining to industrial parks has been ratified by the Islamic Emirate’s supreme religious leader, and the process of distributing land to the private sector will begin soon. The leader considers that partnering with other countries is not an infringement of sharia (Islamic law). “Allah willing, land distribution will start in the future. About 600 applicants want to establish factories in different zones,” said the Minister. He added that 1,000 industrial companies have recently received operating licenses from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and with the establishment of these companies, unemployment in the society will be reduced. “The UN,” said Azizi, should “consider fundamental works and investment in large and incomplete projects in Afghanistan and to solve Afghanistan’s banking problems with the international community.” He said that humanitarian aid is not the solution to Afghanistan’s problems.