The National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) is coordinating plans with at least 20 government institutions to forge an action plan for reducing air pollution in the capital city, Kabul, officials of the authority said at a press conference on Sunday.
The air pollution in Kabul is seasonal and it will increase with the arrival of summer. A report released by an American institution last year listed Afghanistan among the ten cities in the world which have the most polluted air. During winter, as the weather gets cold, the air pollution increases in the city due to the use of low-quality fuel by its residents.
Air pollution in Kabul is considered as a threat, similar to the threat posed by insurgency, as both put people’s lives in danger, residents and experts said.
“One of the major problems was that there was no coordination in the past years. But the institution (NEPA) managed to sign some MoUs with a number of institutions for launching joint projects,” said Mohammad Hamidiyan, deputy head of NEPA on finance.
“In the view of the importance of the environment and in the wake of climate change, NEPA is still a young institution and there is a need for more works to be done,” NEPA Chairman Shah Zaman Maiwandi said.
The NEPA Deputy Chief Ezatullah Sediqi said: “22 ministries have been directed to make an action plan for reducing air pollution in Kabul city”.
In 2017, President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree on the environmental law, stating any person found guilty of committing major pollution-related crimes can face between 16 and 20 years in prison.
The law also reportedly states that if inspectors fail to enforce the law they can also face imprisonment or a fine of up to AFs60,000 while an offender, whose actions have led to the death of a person, can get the death penalty.
Members of the public and health experts have welcomed the enforcement of this law and said that the high levels of pollution, especially in Kabul, has resulted in a marked increased in illnesses.
According to the Criminal Act, in relation to environmental crimes, Section 838 states that a person who deliberately disposes of toxic substances and waste, of mercury or other matter harmful to the public health's - especially in wells, water tanks, public storage facilities or other unauthorized sites - can be sentenced to prison.