DUSHANBE, September 25, 2015, Asia-Plus -- The Istiqlol Tunnel connecting the Tajik capital to Tajikistan’s second largest city, Khujand, has been reopened for traffic for all types of vehicles today, according to the Ministry of Transport (MoT).

An official source at a MoT says traffic through the tunnel had been restricted since June 2 in connection with repair work.

The Istiqlol Tunnel, better known among the population as the Anzob Tunnel, has been built with assistance of Iranian specialists.  Iran’s Saber International has constructed the Istiqlol Tunnel.

The total project cost was estimated at 40 million US dollars, and Iran has provided US$10 million in a form of grant and extended a preferential loan worth US$21 million to Tajikistan.

The Istiqlol Tunnel is a five kilometer long tunnel located 80 kilometers northwest of Dushanbe.  It connects the Tajik capital to the northern part o the country.  It is also a transit route between Dushanbe and Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent.  Previously, especially during the cold seasons, a lack of a direct link between northern and southern Tajikistan led to disruptions of commerce.  The tunnel makes the highway from Dushanbe to Khujand open for traffic the whole year round and drops the transit time by four to five hours.

An official opening ceremony of the Istiqlol Tunnel was held in July 2007; however, some works have remained unfinished.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the governments of Tajikistan and Iran on completion of the Istiqlol Tunnel that was endorsed by the Tajik parliament in April 2013 provides for allocation of additional 6 million U.S. dollars.  This amount includes a US$3 million grant provided by the Government of Iran and US$3 million provided by the Government of Tajikistan.

In July this year, Tajikistan and Iran signed one more memorandum of understanding on cooperation on completion of the Istiqlol Tunnel.  The document was inked by Tajik Ambassador to Iran Nematullo Emomzoda and Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian in Tehran on July 7.