Kabul hillside dwellers face many hardships in winter
KABUL (Pajhwok): Families living in the hillside neighbourhoods of capital Kabul complain they lack electricity, drinking water and are vulnerable to floods and landslides in winter.
Over the past two decades, people occupied government’s lands of hills in Dehmazang, Karta-i-Mamorin, Guzargah, Sher Darwazi, Asmayee, Maranjan hill, Kart-i-Sakhi, Bagh-i-Bala, Chilsotoon, Panjsad Family, Qargha Family, Sara-i-Shamali…… and constructed houses there.
Some of the slums and makeshift camps have been established nearly two kilometers high from the ground level and it is difficult to commute to these areas or take food or other daily-use items there and shift patients to hospitals, as there is no road facility to the outer suburbs.
A dweller of Karta-i-Mamorin hill, Abdul Mubin, said tap water got frozen in winter seasons. As he was sick, his small children used to fetch water from a 400-metre lower area in jerry canes.
“Sometimes while carrying the water my children slip and get injured, but what to do? I have no other option. If I have had money, I would have constructed a house in the planned area and would not have faced such problems,” he said.
He cited some other problems families living in houses on the slopes like lack of access to roads or paved streets, shops and electricity.
Ahmad, a student of computer science at Kabul University, said he lived in Guzargah hill, saying his house was located a kilomentre away from a paved road. He said the lack of access to a road was their main problem.
“If someone falls sick, the ill person is taken to hospital with many difficulties,” he said. “One of my neighbours was seriously ill, but before reaching the main road to take him by an ambulance, he passed away in the mid-way,” he said.
They have been living in the hill areas with difficulties over the past 20 months, but the government or other welfare organisations have so far paid no attention to them.
An Afghan National Army (ANA) officer, Abdul Momin, a resident of Karta-i-Mamorin hillside, said his house was located 500 meters away from the asphalted road and they were living in hard conditions.
“One day, I was carrying a bag of flour to my home, my foot slipped and I fell on the ground, fortunately my brother helped me, otherwise I would have fallen from the mountain to the bottom,” he said.
Mamoin also complained about a lack of electricity in their area and said they were living in the mountain for the last eight years but had no access to electricity since then.
He approached five times Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) (power utility) department but could not get electricity connection.
However, DABS spokesman Wahid Tawhidi said: “We still don’t have enough electricity for families in plain areas, we cannot provide the facility to all mountain dwellers the same time.”
He said DABS was currently providing electricity to residential buildings which had been constructed under the municipality plan.
A number of other mountain dwellers were concerned about floods and rock-sliding onto their houses.
Sharif, who lives in Guzargah mountain’s Yakhdan area, said the house of one of his neighbors was destroyed by floodwaters from the mountains last year and caused him more than 100,000 afghanis lose.
Two years ago, a big stone rolled down the mountain and destroyed a wall, but fortunately it caused no casualties, he said.
Mohammad Ashraf Shahin, a local representative of Guzargah Mountains’ dwellers, was also concerned about floods and stones falling and said vulnerable houses were destroyed each year, with residents suffering huge losses.
He said a few years ago a number of houses were destroyed after being hit a huge rock rolling down the mountain. He said the government was nothing to prevent such incidents.
Shahin said the lack of a proper pathway and roads was another problem being faced by the mountains’ dwellers.
But Kabul municipality spokesman Abdul Qadir Arzo said houses built on mountains were completely out of the municipality’s plan and these dwellings had been constructed illegally on government lands.
Calling mountains and hills as properties of the government, he said: “It is impossible to provide roads to houses built in the middle of mountains.”
Nearly 70 percent of buildings in Kabul are unplanned, an issue that has created big problems for the Kabul municipality. Municipality officials say a comprehensive programme is needed to manage the unplanned buildings.
However, the most disadvantaged, who have sought shelter in slums and makeshift camps, say it was their poor economy that forced them to build houses on mountains. They say government officials by expressing such views are try to conceal their failure to improve people’s economic situation.
Ahmad Zia Massoud, president’s special representative for reforms and good governance, had ordered the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUDA) to survey houses built on mountains and provide the dwellers land plots on the ground.
He had said mountains should remain green to keep the beauty of Kabul city instead of being used for residential areas. Massoud had issued these orders one year ago, but nothing happened so far.
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