| Updated at: 1101 PST, Sunday, December 05, 2010|
KABUL: The Afghan capital will enjoy a two-day weekend for a few months as the government tries a radical approach to cut down pollution, but workers have been warned they will be back to longer hours when spring arrives.
Kabul is cradled by picturesque mountains that are snow-capped most of the year but also create a bowl that traps fumes from rapidly growing numbers of cars, buses, taxis and diesel generators used to compensate for frequent blackouts.
Although security grabs more headlines, dirty air is a growing headache for Kabul residents, with the brown haze over the city often visible from the air or nearby hills.
Pollution is worsened by dust blown along unpaved roads. Rotting piles of uncollected garbage add an unpleasant smell.
"In order to safeguard the safety and health of Kabul citizens ... the cabinet has decided to make Thursday a day off until the end of this (Persian) year," it said.
The Persian new year comes in around three months.
The government contribution will be to remove the roadblocks and cement blast walls which sealed off parts of the city to all but a few official and diplomatic vehicles, the statement added, in an attempt to ease traffic.
The result of the heavy security has been gridlock in much of the rest of Kabul, adding to the pollution.
Ministries, embassies and organisations that have been targeted in insurgent attacks are likely to be anxious about allowing traffic to speed past their unprotected walls.
The cabinet also called on Kabul residents to cut back their car use on Mondays, the middle of the week for Afghans -- a difficult proposal in a city with little public transport.
The extra day may please workers, although Thursday has long been taken as an unofficial half-day.
But businessmen who feel out of sync with much of the rest of the world will be unhappy that they now have one weekend day shared with very few other countries -- many Muslim nations switched to a Friday-Saturday weekend over the past decade.