At least 17 people have died of respiratory infections in Kabul over the past week due to hazardous levels of air pollution, Afghanistan’s health ministry said.
More than 8,800 patients have visited government hospitals in a week, suffering from health conditions, including lung problems, as air quality worsened in the capital, Deputy Minister of Public Health Fida Mohammad Paikan, told reporters on Monday.
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Officials have started cracking down on local business thought to be the main contributors to air pollution in Kabul after they were asked to do so by the Afghan president, Leila Samani, a spokeswoman for Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency told dpa news agency on Monday.
Three wedding halls and two property management offices were shut down for causing heating-related pollution, the municipality and environmental agency said on Sunday evening.
Residents have been urged to reduce the use of coal, scrap tires and plastics for heating, Samani said.
The primary cause of pollution is poverty and a lack of electricity, residents say, adding that without cheaper gas and electricity it would be impossible to solve the issue.
Officials say the use of non-standard fuel, lack of green spaces, unpaved roads and unplanned settlements are other factors contributing to smoggy and polluted air in Kabul.
The government is planning to launch an awareness campaign in mosques in Kabul in the coming days and environmental activists have launched a campaign to distribute face masks.
Some 22 government institutions have joined forces for the campaign to overcome air pollution in the city.
Kabul is one of the worst-polluted cities in the world.