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The Telegraph, December 1, 2010

Kabul: “A breath of fresh air cannot be purchased for any price in most days of the year”

Kabul has moved to a five-day week in a radical step to protect residents from the city's toxic smog

By Ben Farmer, Kabul

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president announced Thursday would join Friday as the official weekend and be declared holiday for the capital's five million residents for the remainder of the winter.

Kabul, one of the worse cities for pollution
Recent analysis found Kabul was one of the worst 10 cities in the world for pollution (Photo: REUTERS)

Kabul's persistent fog of pale yellow pollution is estimated to hasten the deaths of 3,000 people each year due to respiratory illnesses according to Afghan health officials.

As refugees and migrants have flooded to the city an ever larger number of cars, generators, stoves and small factories have begun belching fumes into the atmosphere. Car tyres are regularly burned for fuel.

The poisonous veil is kept in place by a ring of mountains and a recent analysis found Kabul was one of the worst 10 cities in the world for pollution.

An air quality survey for the Afghan government last year concluded: "The worst enemy of Afghanistan is air pollution, not the Taliban."

The report said: "A breath of fresh air cannot be purchased for any price in most days of the year.

"To watch the city landscape from any vantage point, it looks like it has caught fire." The country's council of ministers decided to make Thursday holiday in the hope cars would stay off the road and factories would shut.

Pollution is worst in the still winter air and the restriction will remain in place until March.

A government spokesman said: "It was the only thing we could do. Air quality has dropped dramatically."

The government will also investigate banning some of the city's oldest cars and forcing the city's tall brick kilns to relocate elsewhere.

Kabul was designed for around half a million residents, but holds five million as migrants have flocked to the capital looking for work, or fleeing rural violence.

Category: Healthcare/Environment - Views: 7084