Kabul's air pollution putting people's health at
KABUL, 16 March 2008 (IRIN) - Worsening air
pollution in Kabul is "seriously" threatening the
health and well-being of its estimated three million
residents, Afghanistan's National Environmental
Protection Agency (NEPA) has said.
"In terms of air pollution we are facing a crisis
in Kabul," Dad Mohammad Baheer, the deputy director of
NEPA, told IRIN.
"Over 70 percent of diseases in Kabul are linked to
air pollution, unclean water and solid waste," he
said, adding that children were particularly
susceptible to various diseases originating from toxic
pollutants in the air.
Severe air pollution causes respiratory disorders,
eye and nasal problems, and is one of the major causes
of lung cancer, public health experts say.
"Over the past few years diagnosed cases of cancer,
mainly among children, have increased considerably,"
A short stroll in Kabul during the daytime leads to
clear evidence – when one blows one's nose on a
handkerchief - of the polluted atmosphere.
Kabul has also lost over 70 percent of its
greenery, particularly trees, over the past two
decades, NEPA's findings show.
Vehicle emissions are considered a major
contributor to air pollution: Every month Kabul's one
million vehicles are added to by over 8,000 new
vehicles registered with the Kabul traffic department,
officials said. Most vehicles in Kabul are over 10
years old and more polluting than modern ones.
"The problem in Kabul is compounded by the
widespread use of substandard car fuel and old
engines," Baheer said.
Power cuts and the absence a national natural gas
grid mean that many households use wood, coal and
heating oil for cooking and heating.
Moreover, some brick factories, public baths and
small businesses burn old tyres, plastic and
combustible waste to run their businesses more
cheaply. Toxic pollutants, sulfur oxide, carbon
monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide are
emitted, NEPA experts say.
"Poor waste management – both solid and otherwise -
is yet another major problem in Kabul which also
damages the air quality," Baheer said.
Unlike some other capital cities, Kabul has the
added problem of its arid and mountainous landscape
and lack of nearby woodlands, according to NEPA.
Fledging environmental protection agency
Kabul faces numerous environmental problems: a
virtually non-existent sewage and sanitation system,
burgeoning slums, crumbling infrastructure and rapid
population growth. The fledging environmental
protection agency will have an uphill struggle in
improving air quality.
"We have to act fast and execute a series of
projects such as the rehabilitation of forests and
promotion of greenery, ban the import and use of
substandard fuel, improve waste management... and
build and strengthen our own institutional capacity,"
NEPA's deputy director said.
NEPA is looking forward to receiving its first ever
assistance from a donor: The US Agency for
International Development (USAID) has pledged about
US$500,000, Baheer said.
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a
project the Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs. IRIN is UN humanitarian news and
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the views of the United Nations or its agencies.
[This report does not necessarily
reflect the views of the United Nations]