Afghanistan wants $500m for new vision of Kabul

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The Independent Online

The vision is of the world's first eco-neutral capital city, powered by water, wind and solar energy with a vast central park with hills and a lake – a metropolis of the future, blending the latest modern sustainable architecture with traditional building methods.

The setting of this Shangri-La is, surprisingly, Afghanistan, one of the world's poorest countries, dependent on international handouts, and experiencing a prolonged, bloody conflict.

The Afghan government is set to ask a conference of donor states in Paris next month for $500m (£250m) to start the construction of a "new Kabul" intended to replace the current ramshackle capital as part of a multibillion-dollar aid package. However, the West is likely to be unimpressed with requests for a lavish new capital at a time when the country lacks the most basic essentials, and there is widespread diversion of aid money into private pockets through corruption.

But Afghan officials insist that Kabul, originally built for 500,000 inhabitants but now hosting more than four million, with its shattered infrastructure and pollution, is simply incapable of being the hub of an Afghanistan trying to pull itself out of poverty. The plans for Dehsabz, sited on a huge stretch of open ground north of Kabul, also include an international airport and industrial zones.

"Kabul has been allowed to go without any proper planning ... We have multiple families living in single households often under very unsanitary conditions," said Mahmoud Saikal, the chief executive of the Dehsabz City Development Authority.

Amir Jan, a 48-year-old lorry driver, said of the plans: "People are being killed. I cannot drive down half the roads ... The government should be concerned with these things rather than some fancy new capital."

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