Air pollution in Kabul is the result of three decades civil war in Afghanistan. Civil war has completely demolished the infrastructure of the country. As a result, the nation is tolerating different sorts of problems such as pollution, security threats, unemployment, poverty and illiteracy. All the mentioned dilemmas are highly considerable issues, but the environmental issues and air pollution are negatively threatening the daily life of citizens, especially in Kabul city which is the most populated city in the country.
"Afghanistan has become a junkyard of old cars," said Daud Saba, one of a handful Afghanistan environmental specialist to Aljazeera news reporter. Afghanistan is a poor country, and the people can't afford to purchase new brand of cars. Most of the cars being imported in the country are out of date.
There is no regular technical checking of cars being imported in the country. "Most of the vehicles in Kabul are over 10 years old and more polluting than the modern ones," a Kabul traffic department official said. Vehicle emissions are considered a major contributor to air pollution. The air problem in Kabul is compounded by the widespread use of substandard car fuel and old engines.
The city of Kabul was built with the infrastructure for one million residents and a maximum circulation of 75,000 cars. But currently there are around five million residents living in Kabul and
400, 000 cars excluding buses are circulating around the city.
High densities of population in Kabul and huge number of vehicles circulating around the city are considered the major reasons of poor air quality in Kabul. Most of the hills and mountain tops are occupied by houses and unfortunately, the residents do not have access to sanitations and clear drinking water.
This situation is a dangerous warning and threatens hundreds and thousands of lives in capital. Unemployment, security threats in provinces and returnees from the neighboring countries are the main reasons behind the population density of Kabul.
In addition, the people are not co-operative with the government in term of taking care of the environment. For example, the dustbins along the roads are never used by the people. Instead of using the dustbins, the garbage is irresponsibly thrown on the roads, streets and around the residences.
The lack of energy such as gas and electricity are the other reasons that add to the density of weather pollution in Kabul. The people are compelled to cut the trees, burn plastics and tires for warming the residences in the winter and cooking purposes.
Moreover, electricity shortage in the city has caused the use of power generators and the generators, of course, use third class substandard fuels that are producing and contributing to the air pollution, and creating noise. According to a survey report by NEPA (National Environmental Protection Agency), "Kabul has lost up to 70 percent of its greenery since 1980's," due to lack of enough gas and electricity and the people are burning wood as an alternative to gas and electricity.
Most of the cities were partially destroyed during the civil war, but Kabul was completely demolished. There was no part of the city which was not affected. Many NGO's and nonprofit organizations have rushed into Kabul and are working for the reconstruction of the city, since the Taliban's government collapsed and the transitional government formed under the leadership of Mr. Hamid Karzai in 2002.
The construction projects, unpaved roads and streets are another pollution contributor to the air quality of Kabul. Most of the under-construction roads and streets are adding to the air pollution, these projects have created traffic problems in city as well. Moreover, destroying the green areas and building nonstandard sky scrapers is a warning for contributing to the air pollution density and population increase in Kabul city.
The geographical situation of the city is another cause of air density, because it is surrounded by mountains and hills which are dry and covered by residences. Most of the residences are lacking sanitation systems. Lack of access to proper sanitations and curving wells of sanitations have completely damaged the underground water. Most of the citizens do not have access to clear drinking water, and are suffering from certain diseases stretched in the air of Kabul.
According to a survey report by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) in 2009 published in www.irinnews.org website, "Air pollution in Kabul is causing respiratory diseases that may be hastening the death of around 3,000 every year." The statistics in this report indicate that the number of lives being lost due to air pollution in Kabul is more than the deaths being caused by the terrorist acts, road accidents and natural death.
Citing Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), National Public Radio, a non-commercial news website, "the level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was 52 ppm (Parts Per Million) on an average day in Kabul in 2008." On the other hand, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation result indicates that the air quality standard for NO2 (annual average concentration) is 0.053 ppm in Kabul." "The level of sulfur dioxide (SO2) was 37 ppm on an average day in Kabul in 2008." "The US EPA says the 24 hour average concentration of SO2 should not exceed 0.14 ppm. As the US EPA, exposes to NO2, SO2 and particulate matter negatively affects the respiratory system, damages lung tissues, and can cause cancer and premature death. The elderly, children, and people with chronic lung disease, influenza or asthma tend to be especially sensitive to effects of particulate matter."
The investigation report results by different sources such as MoPH, NEPA and US EPA indicate that terrorism, road accidents, and natural death are not the only enemy of the Afghan people. In addition, they are tolerating and fighting against another silent enemy such as air pollution. Air pollution has become more dangerous enemy of Afghan citizens than any other ones. It threatens thousands of lives in a year. Though, the government has developed strategies and has formed organizations such as NEPA to overcome this dilemma, it has not been able to achieve the targeted goals due to lack of security, enough budget, administrative capacity, and public co-operation.
It is every individual citizen's humanitarian responsibility to co-operate with the government in every aspect to overcome this dilemma and enjoy a life free of silent enemy such as air pollution and terrorism activities. The government is helpless to approach a conclusion in fighting against the silent enemy (air pollution) and terrorists, unless the people co-operate with their government.