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    Auto-rickshaws clogging Kunduz arteries

    KUNDUZ CITY (PAN): A multitude of auto-rickshaws, which cause air and noise pollution, have made routine life miserable for dwellers of Kunduz City, the capital of northern Kunduz province, officials and residents complained on Wednesday.

    In the city, there has lately been a dramatic increase in the number of the motorised three-wheelers, emitting a lot of smoke and making a disturbing noise, with drivers playing loud music.

    “Most of rickshaw drivers don’t care about traffic rules and even enter areas,where these vehicles are banned,” traffic department head Abdul Karim Langari told Pajhwok Afghan News. He acknowledged rickshaws were a nuisance for traffic police.

    Last year, there were 2,500 rickshaws in the city, but their numbers increased to more than 3,000 this year, with only 200 of them having legal documents, the traffic official said.

    Rickshaws are imported to the province from eastern Nangarhar province and Pakistan in spare parts which are being fixed in Kunduz city.

    Due to increasing air population, thanks to rickshaws, residents use to wear masks, said Samiullah, a handcart owner. "I can tolerate noise, but smoke affects my health,” he said.

    Afghanistan National Environmental Protection Agency (ANEPA) officials, however, said they had time and again asked the officials concerned to take action against rickshaws creating air pollution in the city.  ANEPA regional office head Sadruddin Sayah said all their calls in this regard fell on deaf ears.

    Traffic department head Abdul Karim Langari said most of rickshaw owners were poor people and the autos were their sole source of earning. “If we stop them, they will face problems,” he said.

    However, he said, they were still looking to find a reasonable solution to the problem, adding the traffic department in cooperation with the municipality was working on regulations to prevent unregistered rickshaws from plying the roads.

    Residents of Jawzjan, Ghazni, Herat and Takhar provinces are faced with similar pollution problems caused by rickshaws, he said.

    Rickshaw owners say if the traffic department imposed a ban on their vehicles, they would plunge into deep economic problems.

    Painda Mohammad, 35, a resident of Sai Darak area on the outskirts of Kunduz City, said his only income source was his rickshaw. The driver added he daily earned $9.98 (500afs) for his six-member family. “If the government provides me another job, I am ready to sell my rickshaw,” he said.

    Najibullah, a storeowner in the Kandak area, said he lived outside the city and daily came to his shop in rickshaw due to comparatively less fare as compared to a taxi.

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