Afghan truck drivers, faced with roads that have not been repaired by the Ministry of Public Works, have taken the matter into their own hands by collecting 500 Afs from each driver to pay for the road repair themselves.
The campaign began on the Kabul-North highway following attempts to rebuild the destroyed parts of the Kabul-Kandahar highway in Maidan Wardak’s Shaikh Abad area.
Officials of the Land Transport Organizing Affairs Council--a truck drivers' trade group--said that drivers who are a member of the council should pay up to 500 Afs for the reconstruction and renovation of the damaged roads in the country's north highways.
Meanwhile, several transportation companies said that within a month's time at least 20 traffic accidents occurred on the Kabul-Kandahar highway due to the deteriorating roads, and that several vehicles were overturned.
"The Salang Road is not ready for our vehicles to cross at all. These roads are not safe for our cars to pass through, only Chaglas (old Russian trucks) can pass through this road. We have no one to hear us," said Jan Agha, the manager of a transportation company.
"The gravel and stones that the Russians threw on these roads to strengthen them were also removed from these roads because they (government officials) make money under the name of repairing and reconstructing roads," said Hessamuddin, a transport company official. "They deprived us of everything just for their own interests," he said.
The transportation companies willing to repair the highway with their own funds say their work methods are not much different than the Ministry of Public Works.
"The Ministry of Public Works is asleep now. They are paving the way for embezzlement, and they are deemed as exempt from doing anything. Therefore, we have put this task on ourselves," said Tala Mohammad Atmanzai, director of the Land Transport Organizing Affairs Council. "We have taken this responsibility to repair the Salang Road’s ditches and damaged areas to prevent future accidents, and possible damage to our vehicles as well," he added.
"If any road was asphalted or covered with concrete before, it was just short term. The roads that were asphalted in winter were destroyed in a year--by the next winter--because of poor quality," said Gholam Habib, in charge of a transportation company.
The Ministry of Public Works is apparently not engaged in any major work to repair the Kabul-Kandahar and Salang highways.
Ashraf Haqshenas, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works, said: "The 30 kilometers of road, which was identified as vulnerable in the previous year, will be concreted in the new plan that we have designed.”
“Construction work is ongoing on the several parts of the Dushi-Bamyan Highway--an alternative to the Salang Highway--which is 152 kilometers long, and the rest is addressed in the future plans of the Ministry of Public Works,” he added.
The Ministry of Public Works says that if an alternative is not built for the Salang highway, and the highway's traffic is not stopped, the reconstruction of the highway will not be feasible.