By: Masouda Qarizada
Air pollution is considered as one of the most serious crisis for Kabul city and its residents. Currently, the city’s air quality index is crossing alarming levels, meaning that city has topped in air pollution. Air pollution can be clearly seen particularly in early hours of morning and in evening. From a distance, giant khaki blankets appear to smother Kabul’s spectacular mountainside.
Visitors may even be enthralled by the phenomenon. Only when near the suburbs, however, do they realize the enveloping layer is thick smog of dirt and fumes.
A report released in the US last month listed Kabul as among the top 10 most polluted cities in the world. For many Afghans, it is a potent silent killer.
Afghanistan’s pollution may be even deadlier than its war, now 18 years long.
There are no official statistics on how many Afghans die of pollution-related illnesses, but the research group State of Global Air said more than 26,000 deaths could be attributed to it in 2017. In contrast, 3,483 civilians were killed that year in the Afghan war, according to the United Nations.
Kabul, a city of some 6 million, has become one of the most polluted cities in the world — ranking in the top of the list among other polluted capitals such as India’s New Delhi or China’s Beijing. Decades of war have wrecked the city’s infrastructure and caused waves of displaced people.
Shukrullah, a taxi driver in Kabul city, says one of the main reasons of air pollution in the city is the increasing of population and number of vehicles. Increasing number of vehicles can definitely cause serious air pollution in the city.
“There are two things that cause increasing air pollution in Kabul: firstly, the increasing number of old vehicles and secondly, using of low-standard fuel found in most of fuel stations and used by all vehicles in the city,” Shukrullah said, adding that the other reason of increasing air pollution in the city is the increasing of population as more than 6 million people are living in Kabul city, while in past only 500,000 people were living.
Officials at the National Environment Protection Authority (NEPA) said on Saturday that a plan is underway to reduce the level of pollution in Kabul.
Last Thursday President Ghani ordered officials of the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) and the Air Protection Commission to take serious steps to address the air pollution within 10 days.
Ezatullah Sediqi, the deputy head of NEPA confirmed that the situation in Kabul city is serious.
“349 cases in Kabul city are under investigation and will be controlled,” said Sediqi
NEPA said earlier that air pollution has increased many times beyond its safe level. Residents of Kabul city are also concerned about the pollution and say that the air outdoors is causing them to become ill.
On most days, a pall of smog and smoke lies over the city. Old vehicles pump toxins into the air, as do electrical generators using poor quality fuel. Coal, garbage, plastic and rubber are burned by poor people at home, as well as at the many brick kilns, public baths and bakeries. Many apartment buildings have no proper sanitation system, and garbage is piled on roadsides and sidewalks.
The large majority of victims are poisoned by the air in their own homes, as families burn whatever they can to keep warm in Kabul’s winters, with frequent sub-zero temperatures and snow. Children and elderly are particularly vulnerable. At least 19,400 of the 2017 deaths were attributable to household pollution, which also contributed to a loss of two years and two months of life expectancy at birth, according to the State of Global Air survey.