Kabul: The Model City of the Future?

With a population of almost five million people Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan is already bigger than every single city in the United States other than New York.  Even more impressive is the fact that almost a decade ago the population of the city barely topped 500,000.  It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that Afghanistan is in the middle of a huge urban boom.  Today 1 of every 6 Afghans lives in Kabul.  For a traditionally rural country, the huge influx of people into urban areas is putting major stress on the capacity of the city. 

Kabul already features a laundry list of problems associated with the population increase.  A lack of adequate infrastructure, huge traffic concerns, and a dominance of informal and unsafe housing units are challenging to city planners as more people continue to enter the city.  More importantly, Kabul faces major problems associated with pollution and a lack of green spaces. The city faces an overwhelming task of providing services to its citizens as institutional capacity is low and Kabul’s operating and development budgets are wholly inadequate to meet minimal standards of service.

To combat this problem, USAID has launched the largest Municipal Service Project for a single city in its history.  The Kabul City Initiative (KCI)is a $120 million 3 year program to help the Kabul Municipality improve the quality of life for its citizens.  The effort is championed by current Mayor of Kabul, Mr. Muhammad Yunus Nawandish, who was appointed to the position in 2010. Since taking the office, the Mayor has initiated an aggressive program of municipal improvements including a strong initiative to improve environmental standards.  The Mayor has a set a goal of utilizing 15% of developed area for recreation.  This includes 6000 hectares of land specifically used as green spaces.  The Mayor will help develop 17 new parks throughout 2011 and has planted 1.5 million trees around the city in the last 18 months.

In terms of the Mayor’s direction, the people of Kabul seem to reacting favorably to the new administration.  A poll hosted by USAID shows that 41% of people think that the municipality is doing a “great” job, which is a 34% increase from 2009.  Earth Day Network fully supports the efforts of Mayor Nawandish and USAID as they continue to develop one of the fastest growing cities in the world.