ShareÂholders of a planned gas pipeline connecting Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) agreed to invest $200 million in studies and engineering for the $10 billion project.
Turkmenistan, world's fourth - largest gas reservoir, started building its section of the 1, 814 - km link, designed to ease its dependence on Russia and China, last December, but the three other countries have yet to begin work on their parts of the pipeline, Dawn online reported.
"We will use these funds to carry out various studies, preliminary engineering, environmental design and various research of the route, " Turkmenistan's Deputy Prime Minister Yagshygeldy Kakayev said in capital Ashgabat on Thursday.
He said the studies would provide a more exact estimate of the project's cost. Kakayev did not say who would finance the preliminary spending.
Turkmen state energy firm Turkmengas is the main shareholder of TAPI Pipeline Company Ltd. , the joint venture set up to carry out the project. Other investors are Afghan Gas Enterprise, Pakistan's Inter State Gas Systems Ltd. and GAIL (India) Ltd.
Kakayev said the company would most likely be based in Dubai. Originating at the giant Galkynysh gas field, the TAPI pipeline will tranship 33 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas a year.
However, the TAPI project faces several risks, such as the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and lack of clarity about its financing.