AFGHANISTAN: USAID funds Kabul clean-up project

News and Press Release
Originally published
KABUL, 7 January 2010 (IRIN) - A project funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to collect rubbish from Kabul's streets will create jobs and improve the environment, but municipal officials say a more permanent solution is needed.

USAID will spend US$60 million between now and 2012 on waste management, drainage channels and roadside ditches, the rehabilitation of city parks and sports fields, and other greenery programmes in Kabul.

The waste management component will provide work for 3,000 people.

"The United States Government is proud to work closely with the Kabul municipality to provide a cleaner environment for the residents of Kabul city and provide cash for work employment opportunities for the most vulnerable and food insecure families of Kabul," the US embassy in Kabul said in a press release on 30 December 2009.

"The citizens of Kabul have been complaining and suffering from the piles of solid waste in different parts of the city that could not be removed due to the limited resources of Kabul Municipality's sanitation department," Steven Susens, USAID's communication officer in Kabul, told IRIN.

Under the project, some 80,000 cubic metres of solid waste is to be removed from Kabul city this winter.

Municipality officials estimate that Kabul's five million people produce about 3,500 tons of waste every day but almost half of this is simply left in the streets.

Nisar Ahmad Habibi, head of the municipal sanitation department, welcomed the project but said it would only be a temporary remedy: "After March 2010 there will again be piles of waste in the city, because we will not be able to collect and manage all of it," said Habibi.

He called on donors to help the municipality rebuild and expand its sanitation infrastructure - dumping sites, drainage channels, recycling facilities and waste management capacity. The authorities currently rely on a World Bank-funded dumping site in the east of the city, and there are no incinerators.

The sanitation department employs 2,500 workers and has 111 trucks over half of which are effectively out of service at any one time, Habibi said.

Health risks

The piles of solid waste in Kabul are a major source of diseases, air pollution and environmental problems, according to the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).

MoPH studies indicate air pollution hastens the deaths of about 3,000 people in Kabul every year.

"Unmanaged and insecure waste in the city causes various skin diseases, respiratory infections and contaminates water sources which then cause water-borne diseases," Farid Raaid, MoPH spokesman, told IRIN.

He said USAID's sanitation funding will improve air quality and help reduce diseases in the capital.

Meanwhile, MoPH has called on the government to stop importing low quality fuel with a high sulphur content.