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Danger all in a day's work for engineer (2)

By Wang Huazhong  (China Daily)

08:40, September 08, 2011

Zhou Xun, an environmental and social assessment engineer. (Photo/China Daily)

In Afghanistan, the war destroyed many environment-monitoring facilities or census systems and so no secondhand data is available, Zhou said.

"One of the hydrology stations on the Logar River has even been taken over by an NGO as a warehouse."

They have to consider local cultural taboos like not eating pork or drinking alcohol, and also have female experts interview local women.

Most importantly, Zhou's assessment team must inform locals not only of the project but of its impact - possibly negative - on their lives.

Because so few of the villagers have received an education, the team brought illustrations and documents in Pashto to tell them what was going on.

"By doing so, we could understand their concerns and address the problems to minimize the risks and damage."

Zhou and his colleagues have worked in the mountainous region since 2009.

Liu Jialing, who is in the company's technology department, said Zhou is "a man dedicated to his job" and was even in Kabul when his wife gave birth to their now two-year-old daughter.

"His family called him many times, suggesting he come back, arguing life is more important than money and career. But the stubborn man always says we have to complete our job responsibly," said Liu.

For safety reasons, the company forbids employees from going out without permission. Women have to wear burqas even in the hot summer and entertainment is little more than basketball, cards or karaoke inside the company's compound.

There is a spot of more positive news, though.

According to Zhou, the Afghan environment ministry has accepted the company's initial report, which outlines the direction and methodology for further assessment.

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