Green Shoots of Development Appear Along Route 601
Helmand’s main Highway is experiencing record levels of traffic flow, leading to the emergence of new businesses looking to take advantage of the improved security.
The main tarmacked road linking the key market town of Lashkar Gah with the rest of Afghanistan is experiencing a rise in small shops and other ventures, all cashing in on the surge of passing trade.
A string of new Afghan National Police (ANP) check points have ensured that the way is now more secure from insurgent activity and road side bombs.
Manakan Aguldie, has opened one such shop on the side of the route being dubbed ‘the yellow brick road’; selling bread, pistachio nuts, energy drinks as well as mobile phones and SIM cards. “Sometimes people stop to buy phone cards, others stop for my cake or cigarettes,” he said. “The improved security has made it safer for me to sell my goods here.”
As well as the huge commercial convoys rumbling past his shop, there are hundreds of agricultural vehicles transporting livestock and crops, essential for the survival of the rural farming communities.
“We are really happy with 601 now, because before it was dangerous.” Said Mohammed, a farmer travelling back from Lashkar Gah market. “I am happy there are more police here.”
Central to the continued economic and social development in the area is the security provided by the ANP. Mohammed Abdul Sattar Khan, first Lieutenant of the 2nd Kandak (police unit), who controls check point Attal said: “Day by day the ANP are improving, as is the security situation. My men have a good relationship with the locals.”
Freedom of movement for the people of Helmand is essential for the growth of the regional economy, as well as the development of basic services like education and health clinics.
Highway 601 and other recently completed roads such as route Trident, form part of a wider initiative to develop the infrastructure network between the major towns and outlaying communities.