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Fulbright students from Afghanistan work to improve transportation infrastructure

Afghan Fulbright Scholar Abdullah Habibzai discusses the need for transportation improvements in a presentation to the Central Missouri Chapter Institute of Transportation Engineers (CMITE) at the Columbia Public Library September 17.

Years of unfavorable conditions can spawn an abundance of opportunities for development. Such is the case for University of Missouri students Abdullah Habibzai, Shabnam Habibzai and  Naghma Hassan, three from a group of Fulbright Scholars from Afghanistan doing research in the United States this year. The three visiting scholars are working with Carlos Sun, professor in the civil and environmental engineering department, to research, develop and improve the transportation in Afghanistan.

After three decades of war and violence, a stable infrastructure of the country is scanty. Abdullah-in a presentation to the Central Missouri Chapter Institute of Transportation Engineers (CMITE) at the Columbia Public Library September 17-described the immediate need for improvement.

“There are unpaved roads everywhere and many are impassable at certain locations sometimes. Some children have never seen the construction of a road,” he said.

Currently, 70 to 80 percent of the roads are two-lane gravel and more than 1.5 million vehicles use the streets and main regional highway, connecting Afghanistan to Pakistan and Iran, each day.

In addition to this, the altitudinous terrain of the country creates additional challenges. The mountains divide the country into two parts, north and south, accessible to each other by three highways. Afghanistan’s location also makes it politically important in relation to other countries, thereby ever-increasing traffic amounts.

“The lack of planning and government enforcement is the biggest problem,” Abdullah said. “The government is not collecting and providing the right data for scholars.”

Because the public transportation systems are successively unreliable many people are forced to buy vehicles, such as Abdullah.

“It takes me about thirty minutes to drive the three miles from my home to Kabul University,” he said.



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