I've been reading a lot lately about the air quality (or rather the complete lack thereof) here in Kabul. In short: if you breathe here it will kill you. And not in the normal everyone who breathes dies sooner or later way (since birth is the leading cause of death). How cool is that?
How bad could it be? Well here's a couple of recent articles based on a recent report by Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA):
The details are pretty damned scary. A recent report that I read stated that the majority of Kabul residents are exposed to levels of particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide that are as much as 7.5 times higher than the World Health Organization's upper limits for the prevention of illnesses. Also, a recently conducted blood sample test for lead showed that Kabul residents have three to four times the level of lead in their bloodstream when compared to any other Asian city.
The goverment in Kabul is trying to put together a $100million (US dollars) public awareness and education plan to improve air quality in the city. $50million will be provided by the Afghan government with the idea that they'll be able to get another $50million from international donors. I'm not sure how they plan on using that money though. It seems to me that no amount of public awareness will help when some local gets up in the morning and has to choose between burning a tire or hypothermia. In the same vein, a cab driver living on $5/day isn't going to spend the extra thousands of dollars to upgrade his leaded-fuel-burning 1982 Toyota Corolla to a brand new Prius Hybrid.
While most of their plan is to establish a public awareness and education program, I'm trying advocate the installation of an air purifier system based on the ionic breeze from Sharper Image. I think my plan will be better than their plan.* It involves scaling these units up a bit and installing them all over the city:
You might think this plan is far-fetched, but San Francisco installed one across the street from my union hall recently and there's plans to put in another one:
Even though the Sharper Image has gone bankrupt, I think it's still a valid plan. But until they see it my way we don't want to take any more chances:
*Another article I read stated that the city's 3,200 sanitation workers are unable to keep up with trash removal for the population of approximately 5 million folks. If you do the math (assuming an average household of only 5 people and a 5-day work week for each sanitation worker) that means that each of them only has to pick up trash from about 63 houses per day. That's about eight per hour if you assume an 8-hour workday. If they can't figure this out for themselves, I think they may be beyond our help.