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More than 150,000 saplings to be planted

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GHAZNI CITY: More than 150,000 saplings for the protection of
environment will be planted in the southern Ghazni province during
three years, officials said. The US Agency for International
Development (USAID) funded project will execute by the help of
Norwegian Committee in over 500 acres of land in the hills of Sultan
Mahmud Ghaznavi Shrine, an official said.

Agriculture and
Irrigation Director, Sultan Hossen Abasyar told Pajhwok Afghan News the
completion of the project will protect environment of the province. He
added the sapling will convert the area to a forest and will complete
in three periods.

The project will also provide job
opportunities for the area people, he continued. The planting of
saplings will be undertaken in the coming spring, said, Eng. Abdul Baqi
Omari, acting chief of Norwegian committee.

Water supplying
project for the saplings will be stared by farmers that will be trained
by the committee, Omari said, adding the farmers will also get more
information how to grow lawns in their own houses. The area people have
also expressed happiness about the project. It was a great step in
reconstruction of the area and to protect the environment, said Haji
Hamza, a tribal elder.

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Written by afghandevnews

November 1, 2008 at 3:40 am

Posted in Environment

Afghanistan’s natural environment a victim of war: activists

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by Bronwen Roberts
Thu Jun 5, 2:02 AM ET

KABUL (AFP) – Years of war saw Afghanistan’s forests levelled and its land polluted with fuel and mines, while more recent unchecked building and urbanisation is heaping new pressure on the environment, officials say.

As countries mark World Environment Day on June 5, conservationists and officials say Afghanistan faces many and unique challenges.

The post-Taliban government has passed the country’s first environmental law and set up a protection agency, but a lack of capacity and expertise dog efforts to recover from the past and cope with the future, they said.

“The environmental loss was second to the human loss,” said Ghulam Mohammad Malikyar, founder of Save the Environment Afghanistan, of the decades of war that started with the Soviet invasion of the late 1970s.

Before the conflict, three percent of the country was covered in natural forest, Malikyar said. This has been cut back to 1.5 percent through illegal logging and degradation including from people fleeing war.

“When there was fighting, people migrated to hidden places,” he said. “Smugglers and mafia cut trees and took them to neighbouring countries.”

The unlawful timber trade is continuing, with some reports of police involvement.

So is the smuggling of falcons with about 1,000 of the birds trapped in the country’s deserts every year and smuggled into Pakistan en route to the United Arab Emirates where they can fetch 500 to 30,000 dollars each, Malikyar said.

Another victim has been the endangered snow leopard, native to this area.

“Before the war we had 500 snow leopards,” Malikyar said. “Now there is no exact figure but they are estimated at 80 to 120.”

The pelts of the elusive animals are however not too hard to come by. In one of dozens of fur shops in Kabul that are filled with sheep, mink and fox, a shopkeeper recently displayed one priced at 2,000 dollars.

At a market for international soldiers at the US military base at Bagram north of Kabul about 180 were seized over a recent two-week period, said Zahid Ullah Hamdard from the National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA).

“There is no legislation to control the export of endangered species.”

There is also no wildlife inventory but efforts are under way, led by the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society, to survey animal populations.

Drought, desertification and deforestation have long been problems, particularly for the 80 percent of the population who live off the land, but one of the biggest new challenges is pollution, Hamdard said.

Four million refugees have returned to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, many of them flocking to Kabul which is now jammed with four million people, several times more than it was built to accommodate.

Air pollution is fed by roads choked with traffic and the burning of wood and plastic in the absence of electricity; garbage is piled in the streets and rivers; water supplies are often filthy.

“In the rapid development of the past six or seven years, the environmental impact has not been taken into account,” Hamdard said. “We will again need to invest resources to recover what we have damaged.”

The government — already dealing with insecurity and widespread poverty — had however taken some “bold steps” to protect the environment, he said.

One was establishing NEPA in April 2005 and the other was passing the Environment Law, the final version of which came into force in 2007.

There were also moves under way to pass environmental impact assessment regulations for new projects and to protect significant areas, such as a group of startling blue lakes at Band-i-Amir in the central province of Bamiyan.

Discussions are meanwhile under way between Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and Tajikistan to form a transboundary park in the Pamir mountains, Hamdard said.

Afghanistan largely lacks the resources and expertise it needs to tackle its environmental problems, he said.

And there is general lack of understanding of the importance of environmental protection, with awareness-raising key to events planned for World Environment Day.

“During the last 25 or 30 years environment was ignored and neglected and this needs time, capacity and resources to recover,” Malikyar said.

Of efforts so far, he said: “It is not enough for a war-stricken country but it can be a step forward.”

Written by afghandevnews

June 7, 2008 at 5:58 am

Posted in Environment

Amid War, Afghanistan Builds Its First National Park

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by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson
NPR
Morning Edition, May 7, 2008 · In Afghanistan, Americans are working with the government in Kabul to create something that has never existed before in this war-ravaged country: a national park.
It takes several hours by four-wheel-drive vehicle, riding on rocky roads that wind through mountains and across streams, to get to the 220-square-mile site.
But the drive is easy compared to the obstacles planners face to make this park in central Bamiyan province a reality.
Many Natural Wonders
Between mountains in the Hindu Kush range lie six, sky-blue lakes. They are the lifeline of 15 villages, where people live pretty much as they have for centuries.
The lake region and its many streams, called Band-e-Amir, boast some of the most beautiful landscape in Afghanistan — including crystal-clear waterfalls cascading over naturally formed dams that keep the lakes in place.
Such natural wonders make Band-e-Amir the perfect place to create Afghanistan’s first national park, says Bamiyan Gov. Habiba Surabi.
“This is one of our desires … that we at least will have something for the tourism attraction, the tourism destination here in Bamiyan,” he says.
Surabi and other Afghan officials have joined forces with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other foreign donors to make the park a reality: not just as a tourist haven, but as a place where the country’s fledgling conservation laws can take root.
A planned, paved road will make Band-e-Amir more accessible, although it could take years to build.
“There was a sense with the donor community, as well as the government, that this particular natural resource was something that was so attractive, desirable and generally worth protection that it needed to be made an example of,” says Loren Stoddard, who directs USAID’s office of alternative development and agriculture in Afghanistan.
Challenges Lie Ahead
But there are problems in the effort to create a national park. Animal droppings are everywhere. Discarded plastic bags flutter about in the wind. Empty bottles also litter the area.
Sayed Hussein runs a flour mill built three generations ago next to some waterfalls at one of the lakes.
Like many other villagers, the 60-year-old is nervous about the proposed park. To him and many others across Afghanistan, conserving natural resources is a foreign concept. Natural resources are what they depend on to survive.
Trees are cut down for firewood. Landscapes are turned into farmland and pastures used to grow food and raise livestock. Trash is hauled to the edges of one’s neighborhood to be dumped or burned. Water is harnessed for consumption and power.
So to Hussein, the waterfalls next to his mill aren’t something beautiful to be gawked at, they are a way to power the heavy stone wheels that grind wheat into flour.
He is reluctant to consider how he might change his life to make the park work.
But villagers do get a say in what happens here. Decisions about the proposed park and its rules are in the hands of a committee that includes not only the government in Kabul and its Western advisers, but Band-e-Amir elders and other village representatives.
A Homegrown Park
Peter Smallwood, country director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, says the aim is for the park to be a homegrown one. It is to be a national landmark that benefits residents and tourists.
“I don’t think that our job here … is to re-create an American park. And, in fact, other than gentle nudges, I don’t really want to be saying, ‘Here is the vision.’ I want the vision to be grown from theirs,” Smallwood says.
So the park will likely have some features one doesn’t usually see in the West, such as a Shiite Muslim shrine on a lakefront that will remain open.
Even so, the committee’s ideas for creating this park aren’t necessarily popular with residents.
Some accuse the Asian Development Bank, which built the park’s first ranger station, of failing to pay the owner for the land. Others complain that the committee has yet to come up with a new location for the marketplace that was moved from the lakefront area last fall.
A local teacher, Roghiah, says park planners should hurry up with a plan for the herders of sheep, goats and other livestock, who take their flocks to the lakes to drink and graze on nearby mountainsides.
“Our entire livelihood depends on farming and livestock. But no one — not the government nor the committee — has given us any real assurance with regards to how we can continue living here,” Roghiah says.
War Poses Difficulties
American proponents of the park say those decisions must come from the Afghans themselves.
Smallwood, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, admits it’s slow-going for efforts such as getting the Afghan government to establish a general set of rules for protected areas. That’s the last hurdle before the park officially opens.
With the ongoing war against the Taliban elsewhere in the country, he and others say it is difficult to get the government to focus on protecting the environment.
A Band-e-Amir park ranger, Sayed Zaher, says he and the other three rangers assigned to the park have not been paid in four months — since the government took charge of them from the Wildlife Conservation Society.
But he adds that he believes in what he has been hired to do — and that he is having some success in getting fellow Band-e-Amir residents to cooperate with conservation measures.
Copyright 2008 NPR

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May 7, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Environment

Canadians reforesting Afghanistan; Experts may be part of a plan to reverse denudation

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SEAN CHASE
The Daily Observer (Canada)

April 11, 2008

When people hear any mention of Afghanistan, the image that comes to mind is a landlocked country of forbidding mountains, arid deserts and not much else. Little do they know that this former tourist mecca was once covered with forests of cedar, pine, fir and oak.

After three decades of war, there are a few patches of forest left. In a dire prediction, environmentalists recently warned Afghanistan’s forests will disappear within the next 30 years.

Now, Ontario forestry workers hope to reverse Afghanistan’s fortunes by helping the world’s sixth poorest nation reforest itself. The Canadian Institute of Forestry has drafted a series of proposals aimed at designing and delivering an ambitious program of afforestation. With Canada sending federal aid workers, police officers and diplomats to reinforce our military mission there, the institute said it’s appropriate to get some forestry experts on the ground to help the Afghan people regain a valuable resource.

“Forestry is something that fits our national profile,” says Neil Stocker, a boreal silviculturist with the Ministry of Natural Resources. “We would be exercising something in which we have world class recognition.”

Mr. Stocker got to see the plight of Afghanistan’s horticultural decline for himself as a soldier serving in Kandahar from August 2006 to February 2007. A captain in the Canadian Forces Reserves, he deployed as a projects officer with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) based at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar City.

As he sees it, the problem stems from years of war and neglect. As of 2005, there were some 867,000 hectares of forests and wooded areas. This was down from 1.3 million hectares in 1990. The rate of forest reduction translates to about 29,500 hectares a year over 15 years. At that rate, the last hectare will be harvested by 2035. Despite this, wood consumption has increased. Between 1993 and 2001, annual fuel wood consumption jumped from 2.4 million cubic metres to 3.2 million cubic metres.

Afghanistan’s forestry decline can be traced to the Soviet invasion of 1979. It is said that when Russian forces marched into the capital of Kabul, soldiers cut down the city’s largest tree, which had stood for hundreds of years, to prevent it from being used as a sniper’s nest by the mujahedeen.

When civil war broke out after the Soviet occupation, the Afghan Department of Forestry was one of the first to be dismantled. It had conducted forest management programs including keeping inventory of plantations and stocks and the protection of rare species. However, in the absence of central authority, people started cutting down and taking what they wanted. No replanting was subsequently done. Eventually, warlords took control of the forests and harvested them for their own benefit. In addition, Afghanistan’s nomadic tribes, known as the Kuchi, caused extreme overgrazing.

“The result has been denudation of the woodlands, severely damaged regeneration and accelerated desertification,” explained Mr. Stocker. “What’s left of the forests and timberlands are divided into broadleaved, mixed and coniferous forests and shrub lands.”

While in Kandahar, Mr. Stocker saw pistachio and almond trees in small orchards or standing alone. Other trees, such as pines and eucalyptus, have survived as windbreaks and to protect riverbanks during periods of flash flooding. However, the conditions of these trees are poor at best, he noted.

What the institute envisions is sending a technical team into Kandahar, perhaps as part of the PRT, to work with the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture on joint projects that would see the start-up of tree plantations. They could even hire local workers and contract through Afghan companies to facilitate these projects, Mr. Stocker added.

“We want buy-in from the Afghan people,” he said. “If we don’t get their support, then it will be doomed.”

The group has made submissions to the Department of National Defence, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the blue ribbon panel headed by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley which recently made recommendations on Canada’s future role in Afghanistan. Defence Minister Peter McKay did respond, telling the institute it was a worthwhile project. However, any initiative will need financial and logistical support primarily from the federal government, Mr. Stocker added.

A comprehensive, large-scale afforestation program can create skilled jobs in silviculture and tree nurseries, reduce the level of poverty, re-establish a sustainable forest products industry and provide a range of export commodities. There are some challenges, however, ranging from insecurity in rural areas and lack of expertise to the unwillingness of international agencies to commit resources and competition from a lucrative drug trade.

While some may be skeptical that anything as large as a pine or cedar tree can grow in Kandahar, Mr. Stocker said there is potential in the southern Afghan province. For example, irrigation can be implemented because water exists within a depth of 10 metres. When he was in the Panwayi District west of Kandahar City, he saw surface-mounted, gas and diesel powered agricultural water pumps in operation.

“If protected from drought, trees can develop and grow at impressive rates. Although the environment appears to be dry and very dusty, moisture appears adequate in supply and demand,” he added.

“We can see forests in Kandahar once more.”

Written by afghandevnews

April 11, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Posted in Environment

Climate change threatens Afghan health

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Source: Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; World Health Organization (WHO)

Kabul, 7 April 2008 – As the impact of climate change on food and water becomes more widely recognised Afghanistan’s Minister for Public Health called for increased efforts to protect the health of Afghan people from the dangers of global warming on World Health Day.

“2008 must be the year that everyone becomes aware of the real health issues at stake with rising global temperatures and the need for all of us to take urgent action.

“The science is clear – the earth is warming and impacts directly on availability of water and food resources.” This is the stark message that Minister of Health Dr. Sayed Amin Fatemi and the World Health Organization’s Peter Graaff gave today to mark World Health Day 2008.

Dr. Sayed Amin Fatemi and Peter Graaff called for every Afghan to give new energy and commitment to making the fundamental changes in their lifestyles that will stabilize the climate and help prevent shortages in food and water supplies for Afghanistan’s people.

Visiting a malaria and leishmania centre in Darulaman, Kabul, Minister of Health Dr. Sayed Amin Fatemi said:

“We all have a role to play in mitigating the impact of climate change, by ensuring efficient use of our existing food and water resources, reducing pollution from our vehicles and using our land more efficiently.”

Climate change, in addition to other factors, may have triggered a malaria epidemic at an altitude of 2,400 meters in the Yakawlang district of Bamyan province where there were 15 deaths. Ministry of Public Health data from 2004-2007 shows an increase of malaria cases in districts across the country with temperate climate.

World Health Organization’s Afghanistan Representative, Peter Graaff said:

“Health needs to be at the center of all climate change policies – tackling climate change can create healthier, safer and fairer communities. Health is one of the areas most affected by climate change – and it is being affected now.”

Clean air is considered to be a basic requirement of human health and well-being, however, air pollution continues to pose a significant threat to health worldwide. Three decades of war, destruction, de-forestation and drought have affected the climate and environment in Afghanistan and Kabul currently has the most polluted air in the country.

All populations are vulnerable, but the poor are the first and the hardest hit. Climate change threatens to reverse our progress in fighting diseases of poverty, and to widen the gaps in health between the richest and the poorest.

If current global warming trends remain uncontrolled, humanity will face more injury, diseases and deaths related to natural disasters and heat waves; higher rates of foodborne, water-borne, and vector-borne diseases; and more premature deaths and disease related to air pollution. Large populations will be displaced by drought and famine. As glaciers melt, the hydrological cycle shifts and the productivity of arable land changes.

The health impacts of climate change will be difficult to reverse in a few years time. Yet, many of these impacts can be avoided or controlled. Reducing pollution from transport, efficient land use and improved water management have all been shown to have a positive impact against the effects of climate change.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

To find out more about the Ministry of Public Health’s activities, please visit: http://www.moph.gov.af

For further information in Dari, Pashto or English, media should contact:

Dr. Abdullah Fahim, Spokesperson, Ministry of Public Health:
Phone: ++ 93 (0) 700 276 340
Email: fahima777@yahoo.com

Written by afghandevnews

April 7, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Posted in Environment

Kabul’s air pollution putting people’s health at risk

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KABUL, 16 March 2008 (IRIN) – Worsening air pollution in Kabul is “seriously” threatening the health and well-being of its estimated three million residents, Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) has said.

“In terms of air pollution we are facing a crisis in Kabul,” Dad Mohammad Baheer, the deputy director of NEPA, told IRIN.

“Over 70 percent of diseases in Kabul are linked to air pollution, unclean water and solid waste,” he said, adding that children were particularly susceptible to various diseases originating from toxic pollutants in the air.

Severe air pollution causes respiratory disorders, eye and nasal problems, and is one of the major causes of lung cancer, public health experts say.

“Over the past few years diagnosed cases of cancer, mainly among children, have increased considerably,” Baheer said.

A short stroll in Kabul during the daytime leads to clear evidence – when one blows one’s nose on a handkerchief – of the polluted atmosphere.

Kabul has also lost over 70 percent of its greenery, particularly trees, over the past two decades, NEPA’s findings show.

Polluting vehicles

Vehicle emissions are considered a major contributor to air pollution: Every month Kabul’s one million vehicles are added to by over 8,000 new vehicles registered with the Kabul traffic department, officials said. Most vehicles in Kabul are over 10 years old and more polluting than modern ones.

“The problem in Kabul is compounded by the widespread use of substandard car fuel and old engines,” Baheer said.

Power cuts and the absence a national natural gas grid mean that many households use wood, coal and heating oil for cooking and heating.

Moreover, some brick factories, public baths and small businesses burn old tyres, plastic and combustible waste to run their businesses more cheaply. Toxic pollutants, sulfur oxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide are emitted, NEPA experts say.

“Poor waste management – both solid and otherwise – is yet another major problem in Kabul which also damages the air quality,” Baheer said.

Unlike some other capital cities, Kabul has the added problem of its arid and mountainous landscape and lack of nearby woodlands, according to NEPA.

Fledging environmental protection agency

Kabul faces numerous environmental problems: a virtually non-existent sewage and sanitation system, burgeoning slums, crumbling infrastructure and rapid population growth. The fledging environmental protection agency will have an uphill struggle in improving air quality.

“We have to act fast and execute a series of projects such as the rehabilitation of forests and promotion of greenery, ban the import and use of substandard fuel, improve waste management… and build and strengthen our own institutional capacity,” NEPA’s deputy director said.

NEPA is looking forward to receiving its first ever assistance from a donor: The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged about US$500,000, Baheer said.

Written by afghandevnews

March 17, 2008 at 2:35 am

Posted in Environment, Health

Badakhshan forests, meadows grabbed by strongmen

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FAIZABAD, Dec 6 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Over 40 percent of a forest trees have been felled and meadows grabbed illegally by powerful people in the northern Badakhshan province, officials confirmed on Thursday.

Agriculture Director Muhammad Alam Alami, in a chat with Pajhwok Afghan News, the damage to the forested area in the province resulted from decades of war. Badakhshan contained vast grazing land and a useful habitat for wild life.

With the forest cover in the province shrinking, wild animals and birds including eagles are migrating to neighbouring countries Pakistan, China and Tajikistan. Alami recalled more than 60,000 hectares of forests and meadows in Badakhshan attracted cattle from Baghlan, Takhar, Kunduz and southern provinces in the past.

The jungles needed to be revived and the unlawfully occupied pastures vacated by strongmen to prevent precious wild life from imminent distinction and help poor people reliant on income from animal products, the director stressed.

On Wednesday, a three-day workshop – organised by the National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) and sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concluded in Faizabad.

UNEP Law Department head in Afghanistan Abdul Qadir Karyab said 50 government officials were trained in law and environmental protection. The participants were educated on how to promote awareness among locals about the importance of forests and pastures.

Meanwhile, deputy police chief said they were ready to take action against the land grabbers, if approached by the Agriculture Department.

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December 9, 2007 at 2:31 am