Environmental issues in Afghanistan Kapisa province 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. 1] In 2007, the World Health Organization released a report ranking Afghanistan lowest among non-African nations in deaths from environmental hazards.
Contents 1 Deforestation 2 Wildlife 3 Water shortages 4 Urban pollution 4. 1 Domestic and industrial waste 4. 2 Air pollution 5 See also 6 References Deforestation A village in Badghis province The population depends on forests for fuelwood 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 military forces have used wood for fuel, and the military forces have cleared trees which could have provided hiding places for ambushes from opposing forces. 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 and Nuristan provinces are at risk from timber harvesting by timber barons. Although the logging is illegal, profits from exporting the timber abroad are very high.
As forest cover decreases, the land becomes less productive, threatening the livelihood of the rural population. Loss of vegetation also creates to a higher risk of floods, which not only endanger the people, but cause soil erosion and decrease the amount of land available for agriculture. Wildlife Main article: Wildlife of Afghanistan With 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.
Siberian Crane Snow leopard 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 shortages Measuring a future irrigation canal in Afghanistan. Today, the primary threat to Afghanistan’s water supply is the droughts from 1998-2003 and 2006, which created food shortages for millions.  The resulting agricultural crises throughout central Afghanistan have driven major migrations from rural to urban areas. 5] In response to drought, deep wells have been drilled, further draining groundwater resources, which rely on rain for replenishment. By 2003, 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 5000 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. Urban pollution Urban populations have swelled in the past several years. Migrants have come from drought-ravaged rural areas, and around 1. 8 million refugees returned to the country (over 500,000 to Kabul alone) after the fall of the Taliban government in 2002. Domestic and industrial waste Kabul City, the capital of Afghanistan In 2002, the United Nations Environmental Program found that a lack of waste management systems was creating dangerous conditions in several urban areas. 1] 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.