Published on Le Monde Diplo, by Chris Sands, April 2010.
Large parts of Kabul have been rebuilt since the US-led occupation began almost nine years ago. Roads have been paved and once devastated neigbourhoods pieced back together. In the wealthy parts of town, shopping centres and brightly coloured mansions are now a feature of the skyline.
But beneath the surface, widespread deprivation remains. Crushing poverty is still the rule, rather than the exception, in Afghanistan’s capital and people here live in some of the worst conditions imaginable.
According to the Ministry of Urban Development, Kabul has a chronic housing shortage that is growing annually. Between 300,000 and 500,000 extra houses are needed for a population of over 5 million and at the moment there is no real sign of where they might come from.
The government has unveiled plans for a new city on the capital’s outskirts that it wants to model on similar developments in Gulf countries. It is a long-term project that, officials say, will accommodate around 3 million people and include shelters for the poor … (full text and photos).