Environmental issues in Afghanistan | Wikipedia audio article


Environmental issues in Afghanistan predate
the political turmoil of the past few decades. Forests and wetlands have been depleted by
centuries of grazing and farming, practices which have only increased with modern population
growth. In Afghanistan, environmental conservation
and economic concerns are not at odds; with 80% of the population dependent on herding
or farming, the welfare of the environment is critical to the economic welfare of the
people. In 2007, the World Health Organization released
a report ranking Afghanistan as the lowest among non-African nations in deaths from environmental
hazards.==Deforestation==Much of the population depends on forests
for firewood and the revenue generated by export of pistachios and almonds, which grow
in natural woodlands in the central and northern regions. The Badghis and Takhar provinces have lost
more than 50% of pistachio woodland. During the conflicts of the past few decades,
residents and the militias such as the Northern Alliance have used wood for fuel, and these
militia forces have cleared trees which could have provided hiding places for ambushes from
their opponents. Further, the use of the woodlands for grazing
ground and the collection of nuts for export apparently prevent new pistachio trees from
growing.Denser forests in the eastern Nangarhar, Kunar, Nuristan, and other provinces are at
risk from timber harvesting by timber mafia. Although the logging is illegal, profits from
exporting the timber to neighboring Pakistan are very high. The reason for this is that Pakistani government
has its forests tightly protected so the timber mafia are busy cutting down trees in Afghanistan
instead. The timber makes its way not only to Peshawar
but also to Islamabad, Rawalpindi, and Lahore, where most of it is used to make expensive
furnitures. As forest cover decrease, the land becomes
less and less productive, threatening the livelihood of the rural population and the
floods are washing the agricultural lands and destroying the houses. Loss of vegetation also creates a higher risk
of floods, which not only endanger the people, but cause soil erosion and decrease the amount
of land available for agriculture. To tackle this problem, the Afghan government
and agencies from a number of NATO states have teamed up over the past several years
to turn Afghanistan green again by planting new trees.==Wildlife==With very little government infrastructure
to discourage hunting, and habitat disappearing because of conflict and drought, much of the
country’s wildlife is at risk. In 2006, Afghanistan and the Wildlife Conservation
Society began a three-year project to protect wildlife and habitats along the Wakhan Corridor
and Central Plateau regions. Endangered species
Snow leopard (Uncia uncia) Wild goat (Capra aegagrus)
Markhor (Capra falconeri) Marco Polo sheep (Ovis ammon polii)
Urial (Ovis orientalis) Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus)
Siberian crane (Grus leucogeranus) Critically endangered species
White-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) Marbled teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris)
Pallas’s sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus) Greater spotted eagle (Aquilla clanga)
Imperial eagle (Aquilla heliaca) Lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni)
Corncrake (Crex crex) Sociable lapwing (Vanellus gregaria)
Pale-backed pigeon (Columba hodgsonii)Little is known about the status of the salamander
Batrachuperus mustersi, which is found only in the Hindu Kush.==Water management==The primary threat to Afghanistan’s water
supply is the droughts, which created food shortages for millions in the recent past. The resulting agricultural crises between
1995 and 2001 have driven major migrations from rural to urban areas. In response to drought, deep wells for irrigation
have been drilled which decreased the under ground water level, further draining groundwater
resources, which rely on rain for replenishment. By 2003, about 99% of the Sistan wetlands
were dry, another result of continued drought and lack of water management. The wetlands, an important habitat for breeding
and migrant waterfowl including the dalmatian pelican and the marbled teal, have provided
water for agricultural irrigation for at least 5,000 years. They are fed by the Helmand River, which ran
at 98% below average in drought years 2001-2003. As in other areas of the country, the loss
of natural vegetation resulted in soil erosion; here, sandstorms submerged as many as 100
villages by 2003.Some of the major water reservoirs and dams include the following: Dahla Dam
Naghlu Dam Darunta Dam
Kajaki Dam Lake Qargha==Pollution==
Urban populations have swelled in the past several years. Since 2002, over 5 million former refugees
living in Pakistan and Iran have returned home to Afghanistan. Many of these settled in the capital Kabul,
which also include migrants that have come from drought-ravaged rural areas.===Nuclear waste by Pakistan===
In 2008, the Afghan government alleged that Pakistan had dumped nuclear waste in southern
Afghanistan during the Taliban rule (1994-2001). Farooq Wardak, Afghan Parliamentary affairs
minister, said the government was setting up a commission to investigate the matter. Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently announced
that his administration will investigate the matter.===Domestic and industrial waste===In 2002, the United Nations Environment Programme
found that a lack of waste management systems was creating dangerous conditions in several
urban areas. In Kabul’s districts 5 and 6, household and
medical waste was discarded on streets. Human waste was contained in open sewers,
which flowed into the Kabul River and contaminated the city’s drinking water. Urban dumpsites are used in lieu of managed
landfills in Kabul, Kandahar and Herat, often without protection of nearby rivers and groundwater
supplies. Medical waste from hospitals is disposed in
the dumpsites with the rest of the cities’ waste, contaminating water and air with bacteria
and viruses. Lack of sewage management is not unique to
Kabul. In urban areas, open sewers are common while
wastewater treatment is not. Much of the urban water supply is contaminated
by Escherichia coli and other bacteria. Oil refineries are another source of water
contamination. In Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif, crude oil spills
and leaks are uncontained and unsafe levels of hydrocarbons reach residential water supplies.===Air pollution===
Air pollution does not constitute a major problem in Afghanistan, but its reliance on
inexpensive energy has created some issues. Most vehicles run on diesel fuel, and household
energy often rely on burning wood and other materials. As a result, air pollution in urban areas
is visible and may pose health issues.==See also==
Geography of Afghanistan Health in Afghanistan

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