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    70pc of Afghan urban centres unplanned: Hesari

    KABUL (PAN): More than 70 percent of urban centres across Afghanistan are unplanned due to the government's failure to provide the required civic amenities, officials said on Sunday.

    "The government has no capacity to upgrade cities; it provides social protection to investors in return for taxes," acting Urban Development Minister Sultan Hussain Hesari told Pajhwok Afghan News.

    He believed the only solution to the problem was upgrading unplanned rural areas, saying residents would pay taxes if the government improved their living conditions.

    Speaking at a three-day workshop on land reforms that began in Kabul on Sunday, Hesari asked participants and the authorities concerned to find a workable solution to the problem of unplanned urbanisation.

    He said unplanned urbanisation had adverse effects on health, sanitation, security, housing and other aspects of life. The workshop will discuss upgrading disputed areas in cities.

    The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided $40 million for the improvement of Jalalabad, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, the minister said.

    With upgrading of 19 settlements out of 474 unplanned areas completed, the World Bank is likely to donate $60 million for the second phase of the programme.

    Meanwhile, the USAID said achieving secure land rights and improved municipal services were the major goals of the Informal Settlement Upgrading and Formalisation Workshop, which brought stakeholders together to work toward a solution.

    Those attending the workshop include some 120 national and provincial officials, as well as representatives from implementing agencies, non-governmental organisations, donors and private-sector companies involved in urban upgrading, land services, cadastral surveying, land laws, dispute resolution, property registration and land rights.

    USAID Deputy Director Jed Barton told the participants: "This land harmonisation workshop is striving to help Afghan citizens secure land tenure and fully participate in the political, social and economic life of the wider society."

    Deputy Director General of Independent Directorate of Local Governance Dr. Farid Mamundzai emphasised the value of upgrading and formalising settlements in cities throughout Afghanistan.

    Organised jointly by USAID and the Kabul Urban Reconstruction Project of the Ministry of Urban Development Affairs, the workshop is addressing the issues that affect the growth, security, and development of Afghanistan's urban centers.

    myn/ma/mud