KABUL -- The Afghan government says it will grant state workers an additional day off each week in an effort to reduce air pollution in the smog-choked capital, Kabul, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.
Workers at Afghan state institutions currently work six days per week, with only Fridays off, as is common in many Islamic countries.
Kabul -- with an estimated population of some 5 million -- was not built for so many people and has poor public transport and traffic problems that significantly contribute to the pollution.
Kabul-based environmentalists and health-related organizations welcomed the announcement on November 30.
Khalid Nasimi, head of Human Rights and Environment nongovernmental organization, told RFE/RL that the move will have positive consequences in the short term. He said, "Having two days off in a week will reduce the amount of air pollution, which is strikingly on the rise."
Officials in Kabul say the new plan of giving people Thursdays off will be implemented starting this Thursday, December 2, and that after the start of the Islamic new year, on March 21, it will look for additional ways to improve air quality.
The government also called on Kabul residents to avoid driving their vehicles on Mondays in an effort to help reduce pollution.
The Health Ministry said infectious diseases are widespread in Kabul, and that poor air quality further threatens public health.
Many Kabul residents told RFE/RL they support an extra vacation day each week, although some said it could have a negative effect on many businesses, especially taxi and bus drivers.