A City Without a Plan, the Hurdles of a Snowy Kabul Winter

A City Without a Plan, the Hurdles of a Snowy Kabul Winter
KABUL, 01/30/2022 — A street in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul is piled up with snow after a storm. Residents in the city shovel their snow onto the narrow streets, blocking any vehicular traffic and creating hurdles for neighbors. Photo by: Mirzahussain Sadid

Written by Mirzahussain Sadid, edited by Mohammad J. Alizada and Brian J. Conley

“Kabul bay zar basha, bay barf nay.” May Kabul be without jewels but not without snow is a phrase as old as the city’s history.

But snow is not always a welcome sight in the tightly-packed city of five million with narrow streets and scarce resources. Snowfall in Kabul and other provinces across Afghanistan has been unprecedented this year, following years of persistent drought that has harmed the country’s agricultural sector.

Although farmers are happier than ever about the snowfall, it has created another hurdle for residents of the city. When it snows, residents have to clear their roofs and the lack of space forces them to pile the snow in Kabul’s narrow streets, blocking access to motorized traffic, exchanging one challenge for another. There are no city services to remove the snow, so these streets may be closed to vehicular traffic for weeks until the snow melts.

KABUL, 01/30/2022 — A street in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul is piled up with snow during a storm as residents shovel snow off their roofs and onto the narrow streets. With streets blocked by snow, those sick will have to either be wheelbarrowed out or carried to healthcare centers. Photo by: Mirzahussain Sadid

“We face loads of issues in Kabul during the winter, when it snows, the streets get completely blocked and if someone is sick, we must either use a wheelbarrow to get them to a hospital or carry them on our backs,” Nargis Ahmadi, a Kabul resident who has lived in the city for 13 years tells Alive in Afghanistan.

The roofs must be cleared because the heaps of snow might collapse the roof if the snow is not removed.

Mahdi Jamal, a propane salesman in western Kabul says, “I have not been able to get my truck out of my house for over a week now, because not only our street, but the streets adjoining it are all blocked because of snow. This is really bad for my business.”

Mr. Jamal gets his propane from the city and has had to stop working due to inaccessibility.

Akram Niazi, another Kabul resident, thinks it will take time for his neighbors to understand the value of snow. One way Mr. Niazi thinks people should store the snow by digging wells in their backyard and dumping the snow in there to increase underground water levels.

KABUL, 01/30/2022 — A man in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul shovels snow from his house on the street as a storm continues dropping snow. Narrow streets packed with snow become inaccessible to motorized traffic for weeks in the face of non-existant public services. Photo by: Mirzahussain Sadid

“I think we are not utilizing our skills and are waiting for others to help us. By doing this we are playing with the lives of other creatures and preventing our own people, who may be ill, from reaching much needed healthcare assistance that may save their lives,” Mr. Niazi said.

The individuals Alive in Afghanistan spoke with think that by throwing the snow into the narrow streets, Kabul residents are creating an issue for themselves and their neighbors.

In a recent statement the Kabul municipality requested residents to store snow on clear, unpaved ground so it could help underground water levels as it melts.

Ms. Ahmadi has the same idea as Mr. Niazi, she believes that digging wells in residential backyards for storing snow will help keep the streets clear, and prevent residents from running short of water as the snow melt increases underground water levels.