Living Well in the City

Metropolitan areas continue to attract new residents. People move from the countryside into urban areas hoping to find better living conditions. The worldwide trend towards urbanisation has also reached Afghanistan. Forecasts predict that by 2060, half the Afghan population will live in towns or cities.


The capital is rapidly expanding. With an annual population growth rate of around ten per cent over the last ten years, Kabul is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

However, infrastructure development is unable to keep pace. Seventy per cent of the population of Kabul live in informal or illegal settlements. Their living conditions are precarious. Three out of four residents find it difficult or impossible to access basic services. Schools, government offices, hospitals and pharmacies are not readily accessible. Unregulated disposal of waste and wastewater has detrimental impacts on quality of life. The roads are in a poor state of repair. There are no pedestrian areas or green spaces. These challenges particularly affect the old part of the city. The historical centre of Kabul, a city that is home to five million people, is particularly stretched to breaking point as a result of the unregulated settlement development.


In order to address the multitude of challenges brought about by urbanisation, the Afghan government launched an initiative known as the Urban National Priority Programme (U-NPP). The Kabul Riverfront Transformation (KARIT) programme supports this initiative with regard to the redevelopment of urban areas. The social and economic infrastructure is upgraded in selected quarters of Kabul’s old city. Clearly defined public spaces boost opportunities for retail, small trade businesses and markets. Special consideration is given to the historic and cultural heritage inherent in the areas undergoing urban renewal. Better environmental conditions improve residential areas and enhance quality of life. Improved living conditions help to create a safe and stable environment for Kabul’s residents. Improvements that are felt quickly, if possible, are pursued.

There is a special focus on involving the residents. The 30-month process strengthens intensive interactions among all participants and fosters encounters between the various ethnic and user groups.

Measures and Results

The measures affect all areas of public life, housing and work, traffic and services, education and local supplies. The project is subdivided into several components that are implemented independently of each other.

The programme’s various modules serve the following specific purposes:

  •  creating and upgrading urban public infrastructure
  •  designing public spaces and green areas
  •  improving socio-economic and environmental living conditions
  •  modernising and regenerating the historic Machine Khana Industrial Complex, turning it into a venue for social and cultural events and for economic and commercial use
  •  creating economic prospects for the population.


Redeveloping and reviving the inner-city industrial complex gives residents the prospect of jobs and income. In addition, various training courses are on offer at the Jangalak Vocational Training Centre, enabling people living in the immediate vicinity of the industrial park, in particular, to acquire vocational qualifications. Interested parties can apply to learn various crafts and trades, with courses including tailoring, embroidery, carpet weaving, carpentry and gardening and landscaping.

Since the start of the programme in August 2018 the first positive effects have already become apparent. Both qualified and unqualified individuals have found temporary and paid employment, ensuring lasting improvements to their living conditions and future prospects.

Participation of residents

The extensive building work in the inner city is clearly visible to residents. They see roads, pedestrian areas, markets and public parks being built in their immediate neighbourhood. This creates the right environment for the desired participation of residents in the renovation project. Simple measures in the fields of waste disposal, water supply, sewage and drainage will make tangible improvements to the environmental conditions people encounter in their everyday lives.

Preserving cultural heritage

The project aims to strike a balance between living and working at the historic site. It creates the right conditions for trade, markets and small businesses. It improves everyday life for residents and for working people, while at the same time preserving the historic legacy and cultural heritage. In addition, the development of infrastructure facilitates access to education, health services, food markets and local government offices. Upgrading the residential setting strengthens social cohesion in the city. Around 390,000 people living in Kabul will benefit from the various measures.

At a glance

Kabul Riverfront Transformation (KARIT)
Commissioned by:
German Federal Foreign Office
Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC)
Implementing organisations:
Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW)
Programme objective:
To improve urban, social and economic infrastructure in selected quarters of Kabul’s historical centre and so enable encounters to take place between different ethnic and user groups
Overall term:
July 2018 – July 2022