Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, October 25th, 2020

The Winter Nightmare or Upcoming Air-pollution in Cold Season

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The Winter Nightmare or Upcoming Air-pollution  in Cold Season

With closing to the cold season, many of the citizens are preparing to buy heating fuel for the winter. The main fuel which is usually used for heating households in Kabul are unrefined and often of poor quality coal that suffocates the capital and capital citizens. Given the covid-19 issue which is likely to amplify in the winter but it when combined with air-pollution can be more dangerous to poor citizens of the capital city. It will not endanger only the life of people but also living environment such as animals, crops, cities, forests and aquatic ecosystems. According to experts, poor air quality has been identified as a primary contributor to chronic diseases, hospitalization rates, and even premature death while usually Kabul city ranks as the most polluted city in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO),  air pollution causes as many as 2 million premature deaths around the globe but in Afghanistan it is blamed for deaths of at least 8 people in each 24 hours in last cold seasons.
However, in last year, after complaints and criticisms, the National Unity Government established the High Commission for Combating Air Pollution. The commission included 13 government agencies, including ministries, municipalities and independent departments, headed by President Ghani, whose goal was to significantly reduce Kabul’s air pollution over the next four years. The National Environmental Protection Agency acts as the secretary and coordinator of this five-year plan. Although this plan had put end to inharmoniousness amongst government institutions but it has not provided a good alternative to the main polluting factor - coal fuel. The government plan advise people to use filter while it does not work without electricity. The government plan concentrate on large building while the small buildings or small houses also produce coal smoke. With the arrival of fall and winter season, All Kabul residents, especially poor people start burning large amount of unpurified coal because of its lower cost comparing to gas and electricity. As a result, it seems that Kabul residents are once again are going to be threatened by the upcoming winter air-pollution, particularly when it combined with covid-19 crisis.
The most vulnerable groups of people which are victimized by pollution are children who easily developed chest infection. with entering winter seasons, the numbers of patients are increased in hospitals, especially in children public hospitals. The children who belong to poor families are more vulnerable than others, especially those who need to collect garbage from dump yards for cooking and heating households. when we cross from Kabul River, there are always some children who carry a large bag collecting pieces of plastic, woods and paper for heating their households. These children are also exposed to heavy traffic fumes. According to health experts, they will have smaller lungs, unhealthy brain and will be more vulnerable to respiratory and heart diseases in their later years. So, if we ignore such issue now, it will act as a health time-bomb for the future, guaranteeing that hospital wards will overflow of wheezing people with hearts and lungs permanently damaged just by living in cities.
The vast costs to the economy of caring for an increasingly infirm older population will have to be met later.
Given to the aforementioned points and concerns, it seems that the last year government plan was a hurry scurry plan needs to be revised before everything get messy. Hereon, we need to raise some points as personal strategy and some points as public strategy. As a public strategy,  we need to clean up our energy and transport systems by changing from fossil fuels to clean energy or at least pave the way for purification of coal inside the country.  Nearly 80% of  air-pollution in winter seasons comes from households and substandard factories which consume unrefined coal or plastic . if we provide enough electricity and gas with proper price or tax reduced price, then 80% of air-pollution issue will be automatically solved in the country. The rest of the issues could also be resolved through taking regulatory actions about old cars, low quality oil, dusty roads, promotion of greenery and forestation, urban living culture and so on. in addition, the municipality should also improve the urban service system which is one the main cause of pollution in most parts of the city. The municipality personnel pay more attention on large roads and VIP area while other parts of the city are neglected.
As a personal strategy, there are some simple tips required public awareness so as to minimize the health risks associated with pollutants . For example, we can encourage them to avoid undertaking outdoor activities, especially children, when pollution levels are high, using masks, using public transport and having proper healthy diet plan under instruction of health experts. According to health experts, many of antioxidant compounds such as green tea and berries prevent from the destruction of vital cells of the body when it is inflicted by free radicals. Thus,  enough milk and zinc consumption as milk contains phosphorus, magnesium and calcium which neutralizes toxins and also regulates the excretion of urine, feces and pollutants while zinc reduce the absorption of heavy metals and increases lead excretion in polluted air, thereby it minimize the resisting time of these harmful compounds to the body. Likewise, protein products such as meat, poultry, fish, green peas, especially lentils and wheat germ are recommended by health experts. So, the public media can take serious part in public awareness.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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