KABUL (Agencies): Increased air pollution in Afghanistan in recent years reportedly killed more people than the current civil war in the country, according to officials.
In 2017, about 26,000 people lost their lives due to air pollution related diseases nationwide, while 3,483 people lost their lives due to conflict and violence, according to a report published in October by the Afghanistan Research Center in Kabul.
Kabul ranks among one of the most polluted capital cities in the world, the report said. About 3,000 people die every year in the capital due to air pollution-related diseases, according to the report.
Illegal housing in Kabul, where approximately 6 million people live, is also regarded as one of the reasons for rising air pollution levels. “A total of 17 people died in capital Kabul over the past week due to air pollution,” Deputy Minister of Public Health Fida Mohammad Paikan said.
He added that 8,813 people visited hospitals in Kabul last week due to respiratory diseases caused by air pollution. Underlining that this number may increase further, Paikan warned Afghan people to be careful and to wear masks to protect against air pollution.
Ezatullah Siddiqi, deputy head of the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), also stressed that air pollution in the country has reached a dangerous level.
Siddiqi said sub-standard fuel is used in the country and there is not enough forestland. “Air pollution has further increased as thousands of families in Kabul started to use plastic, car tires and raw coal in their stoves as the temperature drops,” Siddiqi said.
Marwa Amini, deputy spokeswoman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said that the ministry is carrying out efforts to reduce air pollution, especially in the capital Kabul.
“We have warned businesses, baths, restaurants and brick factories not to use poor quality fuel and raw coal. We will impose heavy penalties on those who do not follow these warnings,” Amini said.
The report by the center also noted that 80% of drinking water in Afghanistan is polluted, a problem which commonly results in food poisoning.
Low rainfall, irregular use of groundwater and insufficient infrastructure in Afghan cities are among the main causes of drinking water pollution, according to the report.