UN to evaluate Afghanistan’s environment

Following 30 years of conflict, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has announced that 20 scientists from Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world will be assessing the damage inflicted on the country’s environment.


It is thought that Afghanistan has lost up to 30% of its forests since 1979, so that less than 2% of the country remains forested. Rangelands, watersheds and agricultural areas have also been heavily degraded by military activities, refugee movements, and over-exploitation of natural resources, says the UNEP.

“Although often forgotten when conflicts end and reconstruction begins, the natural environment is the foundation for all human society and civilisation,” said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Töpfer. “To succeed in the long term, the rebuilding of Afghanistan must therefore include efforts to revive and protect wildlife and ecosystems, clean up contaminated sites, and manage natural resources such as freshwater and forests more sustainably.”

Three years of drought have also made the damage worse, said Pekka Haavisto, Chairman of the UNEP Afghanistan Task Force.

The team’s aims include the identification of urban pollution hotspots, determining the status of protected areas – and establish methods of remediating and managing them, the collection of data on environmental conditions such as biodiversity, and transferring knowledge to Afghan experts.

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