The government of Afghanistan is working to reestablish proper governance in the country with the assistance of the international community. A major milestone was the approval of a new constitution by the loya jirga in early 2004. Afghanistan was an active member of SACEP until 1994 and Mr. M.J. Kazem served as the second Director from 1984-1987. One of the key recommendations of the Afghanistan Post Conflict Environmental Assessment is the encouragement of Afghanistan ‘s involvement in international and regional environmental agreements and fora.
Key Environmental Problems
The UNEP’s Post Conflict Unit released a report in 2003 on the current state of the environment in Afghanistan ( Afghanistan Post Conflict Environmental Assessment ). This report documents some of the key environmental and institutional problems facing the current transitional administration.
Natural Resource Management
80-85% of Afghanistan ‘s population depends on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods. Many of the traditional systems of natural resource management have broken down after two decades of conflict. This has led to a range of problems including high rate of deforestation, deterioration of important pasturelands, erosion and degradation of crucial water catchments. These problems has compromised the food security of most of the population and significantly increased vulnerability to natural disasters.
Afghanistan has biodiversity sites of international importance including wetlands, high alpine ecosystems and forests. These sites are under imminent threat through lack of proper management. Forests and woodlands are under threat, putting at risk not just the biodiversity but also the livelihoods of local people. Conifer forests in the east of the country, which are the last remaining substantial forest areas in Afghanistan , are under threat from illegal logging. In the north, pistachio woodlands have been lost due to exploitation for fuelwood.
Many of the large mammals in Afghanistan are categorized as globally threatened, including the Snow Leopard, Markhor, Marco Polo Sheep and the Asiatic Black Bear; Many of Afghanistan ‘s bird species are also threatened.
With low and erratic precipitation in much of Afghanistan , and large areas of desert or semi-desert, water resources are crucial for human needs such as drinking and agriculture, and for maintaining populations of wild plants and animals, many of which provide potential for economic opportunities. Water resources are under threat from a variety of factors including a lack of management and degradation within key catchments.
Despite low levels of consumption and production, weak management of urban solid waste is one of the countries most significant environmental problems, especially in urban centers. If rapid population growth, refugee returns and urbanization continue as predicted, the stress on an already inadequate system will worsen. The current level of sanitation in urban areas is also poor, with only 8-12 percent of the population being estimated to have access to adequate sanitation in 2000.
There has been a severe depletion of capacity at all levels due to the conflict, particularly in some of the ministries with environmental responsibilities.
Major Legal Instruments
As of early 2003, the Department of Law, Ministry of Justice had the identified the following laws as containing important or valid environmental provisions
- Water Law, 1981
- The Forestry Law of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan , 2000
- The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Law for Land Ownership, 2000
- Nature Protection Law, 1986/2000
- Agricultural Quarantine Services Law, 2000
- Veterinary Services Law, 2000
- Hunting and Wildlife Protection Law, 2000
- Range Management Law, 1970/2000
- Agricultural Cooperative Development Law, 2000
- Charter for Department of Fertiliser and Agro-chemicals, 2000
- Seed Improvement Department Charter, 2000