By Zahidullah Jelani-Over the past decade, Kabul has become one of the world’s fastest-growing cities. The falling of the Taliban in 2001 and the hope of reliable security and economic possibilities attract many Afghans to move here, people displaced by fighting in the countryside, refugees returning from Pakistan and Iran, and crowd of labourers simply looking for a better life.
The city, however, has been unable to keep up with such fast-paced urbanization, and seems incapable of providing jobs and services to sustain all its newcomers.
Yet despite being strained beyond capacity, Kabul seems to have lost none of its attraction to the people flocking here. Many have made long journeys from remote districts in the south of the country, where fighting between insurgents and government forces has evacuated thousands of families.
Though, the exact data is impossible to obtain, but the population of Kabul city is assumed to have increased to around 6 million now. The rapid urbanization is taking a heavy toll on a city originally designed for around 700,000 people.
An important share of Kabul’s economy is driven by illicit businesses, such as the drug smuggling, facilitated by corruption. (According to a survey (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/12/afghan-opium-crop-record-high-united-nations) by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Afghanistan’s opium cultivation hit record levels this year. With economic growth slowed from 9% in 2003 to 3.2% in 2014, jobs are scarce and the vast majority of Kabul’s workers are either self-employed or casual labourers.
Kabul’s inability to absorb such large numbers of migrants is partly due to the former Taliban regime’s disregard for the city during its five-year rule. In addition to that, following Taliban regime, those warlords who were in power grabbed vast areas of government land and sold to public which further led to unplanned illegal settlements, and change the landscape of Kabul forever.
Concrete T wall or ballast wall: New concrete blast walls go up, taller than the ones before. Streets leading to V.I.P. homes are blocked to traffic. To drive in certain neighborhoods is like to delve into a frustrating game of maze navigation, with surprise blockade popping up overnight. In a harsh reflection of life in the Afghan capital, the small blast-wall factories lined up on the city’s outskirts are among the few businesses that have managed to stay basically feasible despite the reeling economy. Mixers churn out concrete, and laborers cast it in wooden shape. Trucks ferry the T-shaped walls to spots around the city, one of the most barricaded in the world.
The blast walls have become such an integral part of Kabul’s identity that they blend into the cityscape. Most residents have accepted the narrowing of the roads and roundabouts, the blocking of the views of iconic buildings, as facts of life. Activists and artists have tried to turn them into canvases for their messages, so you may as well use them to remind people about some of the scourges of society, like corruption so entrenched that it seems inescapable.
In one of Kabul’s main squares, the blast walls protecting a military base are painted light olive. A tiny park, with two benches and some grass and rosebushes, has seemingly grown in front of the walls, providing a respite for visitors to one of the city’s busiest hospitals, around the corner, or the Public Health Ministry, across the road. The blast walls are the most visible legacy of the American war, and they are not exclusive to Afghanistan.
In Kabul, there has been no serious effort to move the walls out — security has been getting only worse in recent years. Despite the walls’ hold on the city’s landscape and consciousness, though, the businesses dedicated to them are not exactly thriving. Their best days are over after the drawdown of American forces, whose need to protect their bases was the engine for the wall industry.
The blast walls multiplied almost overnight, appearing in double rows outside government buildings, businesses, embassies and the homes of powerful people. Inside the walls, the elite class are protected and created barrier for the common people and particularly for the drivers.
In fact, these cement walls are blocking the commuting routes and make the city look like a prison for common people and now it’s became a trend among senior officials i.e. parliamentarians, NGOs, General of the interior and defense ministries, attorneys, head of the police station by installing the T wall in front of their houses, offices and even the streets are half blocked, Wazir Akbar khan and Shirpoor etc are the best examples.
Most of people are seriously facing with psychotic problems due to the resistant atmosphere and will suffer more and more in mental disease.
The government should take appropriate measures to tickle this issue in order to regain the beauty of the Kabul city and to provide proper facilitation for the common people to live in a beautiful environment.