Kabul: 19:38 PM      
Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.

Some of this information has been provided in response to specific questions submitted by visitors like you. Please note that this section of the project is now maintained as an archive and has not been updated since 2005. Click here to ASK A QUESTION.

Mariam Ghani
Zohra Saed
Massoud Hosseini
Nassima Mustafa
Bibigol Ghani
Arian Mouj Sharifi
Soraia Ghani

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Update on Kabul housing crisis (dw-world.de)
Note: according to this article, the number of returnees is now up to 2.5 million.

Kabul's Reconstruction Marred by Urban Sprawl
by Karen Fischer
The Afghan capital's population is exploding. Ex-refugees and rural residents are flocking to the city by the thousands, and that's creating major problems for Kabul and the aid organizations rebuilding it. It's winter in Kabul. When the sun is shining, the city is manageably warm; but at night Kabul gets bitterly cold and the frost disappears only slowly the next day. Warmth here is a luxury, especially for the city's poor. Tent and container settlements dot the edge of the city, and in the totally bombed out Hasara quarter in western Kabul, people live amongst the ruins. For many, a tarp will have to suffice for an emergency shelter. And many children have to make due with sock-less sandles -- warmer clothing is something you just don't mention. Kabul has become a magnet. The masses are coming to the city in the hope of finding work and a better life. The city has undergone immense changes in recent years. "There are many more people here and far too many cars," says Maki Shinohara, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). "The traffic is a nightmare, there's building going on everywhere, be it legal or illegal. But that's a Kabul phenomenon that hasn't been the case for the rest of the country." The limits of how many new residents the city can absorb have been far exceeded, but the run on the city continues, almost unabated. Millions returning Since the end of the war in Afghanistan close to two years ago, more than 2.5 million refugees have returned to the country, many from neighboring Pakistan and Iran. UNHCR is responsible for their resettlement, but the organization has been overwhelmed by the mass numbers of refugees who have returned. The incoming tide has only slowly begun to ease. The organization's goal is to scale back its activities in the country as quickly as possible. This year, UNHCR wants to reduce the number of staff it has on the ground in Afghanistan by 40 percent, says Shinohara. UNHCR says that its work in Afghanistan is eating up a huge portion of its budget -- often to the detriment of other UNHCR programs. Other continents, like Africa, have suffered as a result. The organization's plan is to register refugees who want to return to Afghanistan. With their registration papers, the people can return to their original home villages, where they are expected to rebuild their livelihoods. During the past year, UNHCR has provided refugees with enough construction material to build close to 100,000 homes. The agency has also provided each refugee two months of food. After that, UNHCR expects refugees to take up their own initiative. A daunting situation However, for refugees returning to Kabul, the situation has been more complicated. In the city, UNHCR has sought to limit its role. "We want to limit our work to the rural regions," explains UNHCR's Shinohara, "in order to prevent a massive number of people from coming to Kabul. The urbanization is already happening fast enough." People returning to Kabul have a difficult time because they have to compete with all the others who are coming to the capital in pursuit of better prospects. Some are returning only to find that their homes have been destroyed, and reconstruction is expensive. UNHCR is trying to do more to help these families out, especially during the harsher winter months. But prospects are much worse for families who never had their own homes in Kabul. They have no prospect of obtaining their own property or any help from the UNHCR. In these cases, says Shinohara, they can turn only to their families. The transition from rapid relief aid to building Kabul up again and creating sustainable development remains the greatest challenge. UNHCR has also tried to learn from mistakes it has made in other similar projects and started early working together with development and reconstruction organizations that are engaged in long-term projects. But the members of the constantly growing class of urban poor in Kabul have a more immediate priority: surviving the hard winter. And the residents of the tent cities and destroyed neighborhoods don't care about where their help comes from -- they just want it soon.
Posted By: mariam   September 30th 2004, 2004 4:03 PM

Kabul: Partial Reconstructions is an installation and public dialogue project that explores the multiple meanings and resonances of the idea of reconstruction -- as both process and metaphor -- in the context of present-day Kabul.

www.kabul-reconstructions.net is an online discussion forum, information resource, and medium for the communication of questions and answers about the reconstruction between people inside and outside the city of Kabul itself.