Bamiyan Panorama

Bamiyan Panorama

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lion of Kabul recruited for 'clean and green' campaign

Lion of Kabul recruited for 'clean and green' campaign

Lion King character in Afghanistan
Keep it clean! Shir Sultan is a big hit with Kabul children

Once known as a city of gardens and abundant fruits, Kabul is fighting hard to maintain even a basic level of cleanliness, among its many other problems. Kabul municipality has now recruited a popular cartoon character to encourage children to keep the city clean and green.

Shir Sultan, or the Lion King, has been visiting schools in the Afghan capital to spread the message.

Needless to say, he is a big hit among 400 schoolchildren sitting in the playground of Abdul Ali Mustaghni school in the west of the city, where cheers and claps greet the cartoon character's every move.

The synthetic lion hits it off instantly with his audience when he asks them the question: "Who is a friend of Kabul?"

Hundreds of supportive hands go up in the air. Some children even stand up to express their commitment to the cause.

"I am going to be sending my son, Sher Bachcha, to this school," a pleased Shir Sultan announces to the further delight of his audience.

By pledging to be friends of Kabul, the children join the city's "Cleaning and Greening" campaign, and in so doing agree to be agents of change.
Decrepit sewer systems
The US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded campaign was launched last year by Kabul's mayor, Muhammad Yunus Nawandish.

The idea is to encourage students to adopt hygienic habits and help civic authorities keep the city clean and green.

Kabul municipality staff cleaning the city
Kabul municipality faces huge challenges in its campaign to keep the city to keep the city clean

While Shir Sultan is the mascot of the campaign other tactics are also used to generate interest.

Colouring and story books are used to tell the pupils of the best ways to dispose of rubbish, the importance of washing hands and how to water trees.

Last year alone, Shir Sultan was directly introduced to more than 25,000 children, where he distributed about 180,000 story and colour books.

It is a campaign where there is no shortage of challenges - first and foremost Kabul does not have proper sewer systems.

Furthermore, the city's civic system is mostly in decay, eaten up by years of war and the neglect of the authorities.

At the same time the city's rapid pace of construction in recent years has robbed Kabul of much of its green cover, leaving its population of five million with few green spaces.

But the authorities say that things have improved in recent years.

"My aim is to have a dust-free Kabul," says Mayor Nawandish, never a man to avoid the toughest of challenges.

Officials at Kabul municipality hope that initiatives like the USAID one will ultimately help in restoring the city to its past glories.

An Afghan student
Farzad says that he is eager to know how to keep his home and school clean.

"We are educating children so that they spread the word in their families, among their friends." says Mohammad Sadiq Sediqi of Kabul municipality.

Because the scale of the challenge is so immense, it is easy to be sceptical about the prospects of such challenges ever succeeding.

But the enthusiasm among the children at the Abdul Ali Mustaghni school is infectious.

"What brings you here?" I ask Farzad, a sixth-grade student.

"I am here to listen and learn," he says with a glint in his eyes. "I want to learn how to keep my home, my school and my city clean."

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