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Conflict and Natural Disasters
 
Afghanistan reconstruction initiative
Islamabad,10/11/2002 (IRIN) - An Afghan-American architect living in the United States has called on the international community to support a major shelter initiative in his native Afghanistan. Supported by the US-based NGO Afghan Rescue Effort, his project, aptly named Village of Hope, comes at a time when government officials and international agencies are struggling with the problems of housing thousands of recently returned Afghans.

"I invite anyone from the donor community to look at my plans," Masum Azizi, president of Azizi Architects told IRIN on Friday from Newport Beach, California. "The Village of Hope project isn't just about shelter - it will create thousands of jobs, impacting [on] the whole economic and political stability of the country."

Eager to help restore his homeland, devastated by over two decades of conflict, over the past 11 months Azizi and his associates - who include planners, as well as structural, civil and environmental engineers - have developed a series of flexible plans for houses, and entire villages and towns, complete with community facilities such as schools, clinics, shops and mosques. Moreover, the plans can be adapted to the widely varied traditional styles, lifestyles and environments of Afghanistan's rugged landscape and multicultural society.

"We want to start on the basis of architecture that is compatible with Afghan traditions, giving people back what they had lost," he said.

Building with adobe using modern techniques, the project would provide jobs and training for thousands of Afghan builders and craftsmen who could take pride in rebuilding their country with their own hands, he noted. "Adobe is a wonderful material when it comes to insulation - cool in the summer and warm in the winter," Azizi said, adding temperature changes between day and night can be quite significant in the country.

While it is premature to assess the viability of the project's costing - the plans are indeed impressive. Designed for nationwide implementation, the 46-year-old architect, educated in both Afghanistan and Denmark, would start by building the first village as a pilot project to substantiate the effort.

According to the plans, the village of 500 houses for 6,000 people, including the supporting facilities, would cost some US $3.5 million. To build a larger village, with 2,500 houses and supporting facilities for 30,000 people, would take six months using a labour force of 10,000 and a budget of $20 million (labour, material architectural and engineering cost is estimated), excluding the underdetermined cost of building infrastructure such as roads, water and utility systems.

In an effort to provide houses for as many homeless Afghans as possible, properly resourced, Azizi envisions they could build up to 100,000 houses per year nationwide.

"This would create significant economic growth as well as 200,000 construction jobs, not counting suppliers of materials and other related businesses, every year for the next 10 to 15 years," he asserted. "Further, the Village of Hope will create tremendous opportunities for many other business investments in Afghanistan."

Using the initial village as a model, the plans call for refresher courses for local builders with step-by-step instructions for building these villages. "We intend to build durable buildings that are weatherproof, earthquake resistant, sustainable, energy efficient, environmentally safe and with a healthy sanitation system," he said, adding his company has already enlisted 2,000 skilled Afghan builders who would immediately be av ailable to start building these homes and to train others on the job.

on the initiative, Neamat Nojumi, one of the founders of the Afghanistan Rescue Effort (ARE), a US-based humanitarian organisation, told IRIN from Boston that the project was already being well received, but funding would be a challenge. "Shelter is a critical issue in Afghanistan, and these are the types of projects we need to be seriously looking at," he said.

As for current shelter activities being undertaken in his country, Azizi maintained that existing efforts were concentrating on providing emergency shelter, as opposed to permanent, sustainable construction. "They are not building for long periods of time, but rather rebuilding with what little was there," he said.

Emphasising the need for support, he called for the endorsement of the project by the United Nations, as well as the government of Afghanistan, which he believed would effectively encourage international funding. "We believe that implementation of this undertaking will pave the way for millions of Afghans to rebuild their houses and regain their normal living. Further, this will also spare the lives of many homeless children from the harsh winter climate," he added.

But with the cost of constructing a typical home for a family of eight to 12 people estimated at $5,500 (labour and material) for three rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom - the price far exceeds what most donors might find palatable at the moment.

Indeed, as the humanitarian community struggles with the recent return of close to two million refugees from Pakistan and Iran, the onslaught of winter and a major dearth of resources just to provide emergency shelter, the project's time may not yet have come.

Nonetheless, Afghanistan's road to recovery will undeniably prove a long one - and such ambitious projects could very well feature in the country's future reconstruction plans.

From a newspaper article submitted to ArchNet by Lucien Steil

Shiraz Allibhai
Responses
 
Afghanistan reconstruction initiative
This seems very much a feasible project. Contacting habitat for humanity would be a first step in terms of establishing a working model for protocols. Setting up a development crew of five to ten people to bring in money and materials would be next. From there anything is possible.
Bahiyyih Maroon
Afghanistan reconstruction initiative
I am an Architect in New Mexico USA that has specialized in Adobe construction as it relates to passive heating and cooling as well as sismic responce. I would be very interested in following your project or evan consulting..Mark
Mac Chalomie
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