‘Air pollution more dangerous than bomb explosions’
KABUL (Pajhwok): The citizens of Kabul are concerned about growing air pollution in the capital city and doctors have warned if the air pollution is not dealt with in a timely manner, people could be infected with different diseases including cancer.
Most of the citizens, especially families with low living standards, have been using coal, paper, plastic, low quality fuel and tyres to keep their homes warm during winter.
The burning of these materials causes different kinds of diseases such as throat infection, flue and cough in addition to air pollution which is already known to increase risks for a wide range of diseases, such as respiratory and heart.
A resident of Kabul, Waheed Azizi, told Pajhwok Afghan News air pollution had reached its peak point in Kabul city due to burning of coal, leather, plastic, low quality gases and fuel and the lack of attention to greenery.
“It is really unfortunate when we travel from one area to another of the city, we cannot see anything in a distance of 100 metres,” he said of the polluted air.
“As winter arrives, the number of ill people also increases in hospitals”, he said, adding that they used Japan made gas stove which did not release smoke into the air.
However, a cart-driver in Kabul, Shukrullah, said he was responsible to feed his eight family members so he had so use a low-cost fuel in winter.
“As I earn livelihood for my family with difficulty, I am obliged to burn coal or plastic for heating purpose,” he said, adding he has purchased 105kg of coal and his two sons used to collect plastic bags to burn them at nights.
If he had a good job, he would have been obviously using liquefied gas to warm his house rooms instead of burning plastic bags, the cart owner said.
Ahmad Shah Ziaee, whose child is hospitalised for throat infection, said a month ago he visited his brother’s house in Kabul and after spending a week there, his son got infected with a sore throat.
The use of coal, firewood and tyres pollutes the air which finally causes different types of respiratory diseases.
Ziaee said the Public Health Ministry should dispatch mobile teams to treat children of families lacking job, money and other work opportunities.
According to Kabul residents, the lack of government’s attention has led to the increased air pollution which causes deaths. They ask the officials concerned to find a solution to the issue to rescue people from the hazards of air pollution.
Dr. Mohammad Hakim Zadran, a chest specialist at Wahaj Private Hospital, said smog generated from burning coal was dangerous for human health. He said smog caused multiple chest problems including lung diseases and asthma.
The doctor said in summer, up to five patients daily visited their hospital complaining about breathing problems, but their number rose to 15 in winter.
He said 50 percent Kabul population had developed allergy due to dirty and polluted environment. Living in polluted air was more dangerous than becoming a victim of suicide bombings, he remarked.
Zadra said most families had weak economy and had to buy cheap materials to keep their rooms warm during winter. He lamented unawareness among the masses about environmental protection issues, which was a dangerous thing.
Zadran blamed the government for the polluted air in the capital city and said if people found access to other materials with low intensity of polluting the air, they would then not use coal and other things for heating purpose.
He said the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) should discharge its responsibility in this regard and should take steps necessary for ensuring a healthy environment.
Waheed Majroh, MoPH spokesman, said main reasons behind the polluted air in Kabul were the increasing use of coal and other materials for heating purpose and the growing population.
He expressed his concern that the issue might produce dangerous consequences if not given proper attention. Majroah, however, said the MoPH could not meet the challenge alone and urged collective efforts.
Eng. Nek Mohammad, head of the observation and investigation department at the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), said sources contaminating the environment were wedding hall, restaurants, bakeries, bread bakeries, bathhouses, heaters used in houses and others similar tools.
He said hundreds of markets and shops had been prevented from using dangerous air polluting materials under an observation programme launched since the beginning of winter.
He said the EPA had earlier warned wedding halls, hotels and restaurants owners to use gas instead of wood and other things.
Fifty nine of such facilities, including public bathrooms, had been closed over failing to abide by the orders, he added.
He added though their office was a policymaking organ, but they were struggling and had tasked officers with inspecting different areas and preventing pollution-creating sources.
Mohammad said wedding halls in the past would burn 1,700 kilograms of firewood in a single day which had been a major cause of pollution but now they had switched to liquefied gas following their instructions.
He was concerned about the use of diesel for warming Macro Ryan residential buildings and said they had asked owners of the buildings to use gas or electricity instead of diesel.
Nek Mohammad continued his department had sent an official letter to all government organs to use gas and electricity instead of wood and coal to prevent environment pollution.
Some non-asphalted roads and streets also caused air contamination, he said, adding that 30 percent of the air pollution was caused by unconstructed roads.
He added the ministries of public works and urban development as well as municipality could play a significant role in reducing pollution. Mohammad asked them to asphalt roads and streets to help somehow clean the Kabul air.
Smokes from cars also fuel to air pollution
Three decades back, the number of cars in Kabul was a few thousands but now their number has increased to 500,000. In addition, Kabul had around one million population three decades ago, but the current population is estimated at more than five million.
Farid Joya, a government officer covering his nose and mouth due to pollution said, “I am one of the victims of air pollution and suffering from serious flu over the past one week,”
He said the air in Kabul was not breathable, particularly now-a-days when everyone was using wood or coal to heat homes.
Joya also recommended other Kabul residents to use masks while going out of their homes to prevent diseases.
Joya, who daily goes to office in his own car, said some old model cars were creating more pollution because they were using low quality oil.
He asked automobile owners to use good quality fuel or change their vehicle fuel systems to liquefied gas something he believed could help reduce air pollution and costs.
“I also changed my car’s fuel system to use gas, it reduced my fuel cost and is environment-friendly,” he said.
The geological survey and environment protection department says converting vehicles on gas could reduce air pollution and diseases.
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