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The Killid Group

Quake could reduce Kabul to rubble

Written by Namatullah Tanin
Tuesday, 24 April 2012 09:38

Quake could reduce Kabul to rubble A haphazard building boom in Kabul has ignored the fact of it being prone to earthquakes.
Kabul lies on one of the world’s most seismic zones, experts say. Parts of central, northern and northeastern Afghanistan are prone to seismic waves due to their proximity to fault lines which run through the Hindu Kush mountains.
Mushrooming unregulated and substandard construction have made the city even more vulnerable, says the head of Geo-Map Construction Company, engineer Mohammad Anwar Salehi. Ninety percent of buildings do not adhere to safety standards, he estimates. He thinks the Kabul Municipality does not care about the issue, and warns of a human catastrophe if there is a big earthquake.
The Hindu Kush mountain range includes the Chaman fault system, which extends along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. On Oct. 8, 2005, an earthquake in northern Pakistan near this seismic zone killed 75,000 people. A seismic station was reestablished in Kabul in 2006 after a 20-year hiatus.
Professor Saliman Osmani, head of the construction and civil engineering faculty in the University of Kabul says the soil is “soft” and even a big shower is enough to cause mud slides. With buildings ignoring basic safety standards, he warns, even the new housing has “lots of problems”.
Azizullah who lives in the Shadab Zafar apartments in Sarak Silo area, Kabul city, says “there are cracks in the buildings, and water and drainage pipes have broken.” He believes people are forced by an acute housing shortage to buy substandard apartments.
Other residents say unless the government takes punitive action builders will continue to flout rules.
Head of Shadab Zafar Construction Company, Mohammad Yonus Momand, dismisses the complaints. “We have not received any complaints regarding the quality of construction.” If the drains are broken, he says, it is because the residents do not know how to maintain their properties. Also cracks in the walls are because house owners have rebuilt the insides of apartments to make new rooms, although each block was made to house only 12 families, he insists.

Powerful lobbies
Kabul Municipality officials acknowledge most buildings do not adhere to engineering rules. Deputy mayor (technical) in the municipality Abdul Ahad Wahed says even the most modern looking building from the outside is not earthquake proof; its drains have problems, and there are no emergency exits.
In his opinion the municipality is unable to take action because the powerful building lobby rarely gives blue-prints for inspection before construction. The municipality, he says, does not have the executive authority to take action.
Builders are riding the building boom. Chendawal resident Rahmatullah says “the Afghan government does not let (poor) people reconstruct their homes but powerful people have been constructing high buildings in our area”. He adds, “we have complained to the Kabul Municipality but nobody investigates our problems.” Yonus another resident in the area confirmed Rahmatullah’s allegation. “Powerful people are constructing high buildings in residential areas and all know that it is illegal but still they continue.”
Even the municipality’s Abdul Ahad Wahed notes, “Based on the Kabul municipality standards, those who are constructing buildings in residential areas, cannot build more than three floors but they are still going ahead with their illegal actions.”

Corruption charges
Azizullah Lodin, head of anti-corruption in Kabul, says the municipality has the authority to crack down on violators of the law by informing law enforcers. Anyone who says the municipality has no authority “should resign his post”, the forthright official says. The situation is potentially very dangerous for the city, he warns.
Kabul Municipality, along with the Ministry of Justice and the police force, has been identified as most corrupt by Transparency International, a world-wide watch dog, says Yama Torabi, country head. The twin problems of poor quality materials and widespread corruption dog the construction industry, he says.
Head of Salim Karwan Construction Company, Haji Hafizullah, who offers to have all his buildings inspected by the municipality, says “some” builders make substandard buildings but it is up to the municipality to be vigilant in order to prevent people from being deceived.
What Kabul needs urgently is a master plan, says Anwar Salehi of Geo Map Construction Company. He says the haphazard construction will grind to a halt when commercial, residential, green areas and parking are separately identified.
Builders should be encouraged to construct keeping in mind local climate and material, he advises. “Buildings that are being built in Dubai and other countries match the climate of those countries. If we want to implement that map in this country, then we are committing a mistake,” he warns.
Amiruddin Salik in the municipality says Kabul had a master plan during the reign of Amanullah Khan (died in 1960). The amir had started implementing the plan from the west of the city. While that was a plan for a city of 2 million, the city’s population has more than doubled. “More than 5 million live in Kabul city today. We need a new master plan,” Salik says.

Comments (2)

  • Monday, 07 May 2012 05:17 | aahmed41
    I feel that its a bit too late to think of implementing a MASTER PLAN. All that can be done is damage control. Usually the TOWN Planner's OFFICE has the authority to inspect and pass and approve any blue-prints. yes, the people with influence always manage to by-pass good laws. If the population is 5 million souls, and if the city is growing, at some point in time, a new part , let's call it Kabul- JADID, will come into being. Now is the time to heave a strict master Plan for the ( proposed) Kabul-e jadid. Can some one post a report about all the ACTUAL earthquakes which have hit Kabul and its vicinity in the last 300 years , or so ?
  • Monday, 07 May 2012 05:16 | aahmed41
    This a report in DAWN ( 25the April '12 ) about BUILDING CODE , in ABU DHABI : Building code Middle East Press | From the Newspaper | 3 hours ago 0 AUTHORITIES in Abu Dhabi are expected to introduce a new building code by June…. The plan is welcome, but long overdue, not only because the code was announced more than two years ago. … The slow pace of implementation in this case … has left builders guessing about appropriate standards. Once it is in place, it should set a new benchmark for building safety standards; the lack of such requirements has allowed the spread of unsafe, cheaper materials in the market. The new code will be based on US standards to replace a mishmash of existing codes from Europe, Australia and the United States. A few examples suffice: currently, it is possible for landlords to use galvanised sheet metal in air conditioners. In the United States, high-density fibre glass, which does not burn and is not toxic, is used. Practices such as storing potentially explosive materials on construction sites, for ‘convenience’, will also be curbed…. The enactment of the code will not end violations at once, of course, and enforcement will be a challenge. It will be easier to enforce in new buildings, for which certificates of completion have to be issued, but many practices will be difficult to monitor. Safety at hotels’ Ramazan tents, for example, were raised significantly after authorities launched inspection campaigns. There is often a lack of knowledge about unsafe and flammable chemicals. The process should start with introducing this long-awaited code ( April 25th )---" Could we think of some CODE for Kabul, and later for other cities ???

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