ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan, April 8 (UPI) -- Bringing natural gas through a pipeline from Turkmenistan will help address chronic energy shortages in Pakistan, the Asian Development Bank said.
ADB officials were on hand for the signing of an investment agreement adopted by shareholders in a company managing the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline. The initial budget outlines more than $200 million for route surveys and engineering studies. Once those are completed, the ADB said, construction on the artery can begin.
Sean O'Sullivan, regional director general for the ADB, said the pipeline would go a long way toward addressing Pakistan's energy woes.
"It will unlock economic opportunities, transform infrastructure, and diversify the energy market for Turkmenistan, and enhance energy security for the region," he said in a statement.
Turkmenistan is expected to send up to 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India for the next 30 years once the pipeline is completed. Hailed as essential for regional economic and energy development, the project has drawn Western support in a region where adversaries Iran and Russia play a dominant energy role.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani led a delegation of political and economic dignitaries on a two-day visit to Pakistan in March. Rouhani during his visit pressed for a resumption of talks related to a long-delayed natural gas pipeline planned between both countries. Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Nafeez Zakaria said at the time the project was important for the country, but sanctions in the past had presented major obstacles.
Pakistani Natural Resources Minister Jam Kamal Khan said it was gas from Turkmenistan that would help address the country's energy needs.
"It will boost the country's energy security, bring economic benefits to our people through job opportunities, and provide and upgrade associated infrastructure," he said.
The Pakistani government says the overall project should cost around $10 billion. Consortium leader Turkmenistan has agreed to cover about 85 percent of the costs.
Project leaders include Turkmengaz, the consortium leader and state-run gas company of Turkmenistan, and Indian energy company GAIL. Turkmengaz was named as the pipeline's consortium leader in August.
ADB was appointed as the transaction adviser for the pipeline in 2013.