Kabul’s Environmental Problem

Kabul, May 2010, ©Ehsan Hassib

January 16, 2011

By: Dr. Sakhi Ashrafzai Sayed Kaghaz
Source: Daily 8 a.m, volume 982, Thursday, October 7, 2010
Translated by: Jawed Nader

Following his appointment as Kabul’s new Mayor, Mr. Younis Nowandish talked about a new 5-year plan for the city in a televised interview. He talked about more or less 70 projects including tunneling and asphalting the city’s main and sub roads, creating new parks and improving Kabul’s sanitation. 

According to news sources, approximately 17 thousand jobs will be created through these projects, which require more than 2 milliard dollars for implementation.

An important component of this project will be the establishment of four canal systems, the funding of which has been partially pledged by the U.S, Turkey, ISAF forces and the government of Abu Dhabi. These canalization systems will be used for discarding the sewage; nonetheless, what still remains unclear is that where this dirty sewage will finally end up.

Around 3 years ago, the head of engineering section of Kabul Municipality stated that the action plan of Kabul city’s canalization projects have been finalized and presented to Mayor of Kabul. Their estimated budget was 850 million dollars. However, the implementation was put off and no practical step was taken as Kabul Municipality faced acute budget constraints.

It is a social, health-related and environmental priority to ensure Kabul’s cleanliness. The delay in the canalization project’s implementation is a major administrative and social mistake.

Lack of sewage systems in Kabul has brought about immense health, social and administrative challenges. A number of city reconstruction projects have either been put off or hurdled due to this problem. Recently, there have huge and multi-story buildings constructed. The question however is whether the municipality authorities have ever thought where the sewage of these buildings will flow. Meanwhile, Afghan refugees increasingly repatriate and most of them tend to settle in Kabul city. Originally planned for 500,000 inhabitants, Kabul is now home to more than 4 million, while the population growth is noticeably increasing month by month. Such an “sudden increase of population” has caused formidable challenge to city authorities in general and the municipality in particular.

In spring showers, human filth gradually mixes with the dust on roads and turn into mud. A day or two later, the sunshine dries the mud and the mixture flows with the wind. As the residents do not use nose masks, the contaminated dusts are respired. In addition, human filth is absorbed in the land which contaminates the drinking water and causes various diseases. Gastric, skin and pulmonary diseases, diarrhea, cholera and TB has become common in Kabul lately.

In modern Kabul houses, septic tanks were used but due to the three decades of war, the tanks were not emptied. As a result, human filth was either been absorbed in the land or it overflows, the sight and stench of which is virtually unbearable.

Kabul is the administrative and political center of Afghanistan and due to the political significance it has recently attained, it is the house of many international citizens. When they see the dirt and filth in the roads, it embarrasses the entire Afghan nation. While, there is no political center in neighboring countries that lacks a sanitation and canalization system.

Establishing Kabul’s canalization is a vital project, which plays a significant role in all Kabul reconstruction issues. Though implementation of such a mega project takes years and is way beyond the financial capacity of Kabul municipality, we hope that the authorities of Karzai’s administration realize the importance and urgency of this project and actively contribute in its execution. The Board of Directors of such a project should constitute of qualified, competent and experienced engineers, economists, accountants and managers and the progress of its work should be regularly covered by media. Otherwise, if the project is delayed, due to ever increasing population, the Kabul city will sink into the human filth.

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