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Afghan government says company that handles US Embassy waste is operating illegally

Workers pick through trash from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Aug. 17, 2020 at what the Afghan government says is an illegal dump, two miles east of the airport.

J.P. LAWRENCE/STARS AND STRIPES

By J.P. LAWRENCE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 11, 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan — A company contracted by the American Embassy in Kabul is operating without a license and illegally dumping garbage, posing a threat to the environment and health, Afghan officials said Friday.

The company, Oryx-Afghanistan, is committing “clear violations” of Afghan law in its handling of trash from U.S. Embassy, risking environmental damage, said Ezatullah Sediqi, deputy director general of the National Environmental Protection Agency in Kabul.

“Oryx is transporting solid waste streams from the U.S. Embassy without a waste management license,” Sediqi said in an email. “Additionally, Oryx is dumping these waste streams at an illegal dump site which is not a waste management facility nor possesses any licensing.”

The U.S. Embassy in response to questions provided a copy of Oryx’s license via DynCorp International in McLean, Va., which subcontracts waste services at the embassy to Oryx and another company, ACCL International.

This license, however, only allows the company to transport garbage to government facilities, not segregate the trash or recycle it at their own private dump, Sediqi said.

Oryx in a statement denied it recycled the waste material from the embassy, insisting that it only transported trash in accordance with its license.

However, on a visit to the facility, Oryx employees boasted of their recycling efforts and showed off the machinery they use to process plastic and aluminum for sale to other companies.

Workers at the dump, located about two miles east of Kabul’s airport, sorted through takeaway lunch trays, water bottles, and liquor jugs as small birds circled overheard.

Only after raising the issue with the U.S. Embassy did Oryx apply for a full waste management license, officials at NEPA said.

Illegal dumping at private sites by companies contracted by international organizations like the U.S. Embassy, contribute to the spread of disease and environmental contamination, said Schah-Zaman Maiwandi, director general of NEPA.

“The international community has significantly contributed to the illegal disposal for the last 19 years, knowingly or unknowingly,” he said.

Licensing increases oversight, and adherence to laws that prevent environmental and health issues, NEPA officials said.

The agency warned the U.S. Embassy last year about the problem of unlicensed waste management companies in Kabul after a check of their databases found only two companies had valid licenses, with others using forged or falsified documents, Maiwandi said.

On May 25, a U.S. Embassy official assured NEPA that there was “no evidence of wrongdoing” and there were “robust procedures in place” to ensure their vendors were not engaging in illegal waste management, according to emails shared with Stars and Stripes.

In response, NEPA sent a list of properly licensed companies to officials at the U.S. Embassy and asked them to check their contractors. Neither Oryx nor ACCL were on the list.

NEPA has asked international agencies to “immediately cease and desist” working with unlicensed contractors, Maiwandi said.

“We have all these international partners who are here to help and support the Afghan government and its people, to rebuild Afghanistan after all this war and destruction,” he said. “All these players are here and these environmental violations through waste dumping are happening right under their eyes.”

lawrence.jp@stripes.com

Twitter: @jplawrence3

Workers shred plastic bottles from the U.S. Embassy on Aug. 17, 2020 at a recycling site near Kabul airport that the Afghan government says is illegal.
J.P. LAWRENCE/STARS AND STRIPES

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