Afghanistan is hardly the place you would expect to find some of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems. It’s a place more commonly associated with war and conflict rather than snow leopards and Asiatic bears. Before the occupation of the Soviet Union and the war with the Taliban, Afghanistan was actually a place with intense conservation and environmental efforts. But war has undone all but a thread of the research and knowledge undertaken and it’s only now, after 30 years, that we have a new insight and appreciation into Afghanistan’s unique wildlife.
In a nutshell, the news isn’t fantastic. Over the last 30 years, Afghanistan’s environment has taken quite a battering. Not only war, but improper management has led to major threats to the natural environment. Guns and ammunition supplied from armies and militia groups has created a situation of overhunting, supplying stocks for traditional Chinese medicine and the fur trade. Deforestation and reckless farming activities have destroyed important resources and impoverished communities are forced to rely on already fragile ecosystems for fresh water, food and building supplies. Mismanagement further puts pressure on the natural land as does the threat of climate change. It’s no wonder that so many of the animals have been put on protected lists. These include, among others, the snow leopard and black bear.
But it’s not all bad news. For one thing, the recent survey actually found animals! Many people thought that the wildlife simply wouldn’t survive the conflict, so it is encouraging to see that some animals have maintained resistance. And, as Afghanistan slowly begins to rehabilitate itself after decades of conflict, the environmental movement has been given some assistance. Recently, the National Environmental Protection Agency has been set up, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. All positive steps for a safe environment.
In war and conflict, environmental efforts often take a back seat in favour of social projects. That’s not to say such efforts are not important and that environmentalism is all hippy talk. Taking care of the environment is an important tool in protecting vital resources such as fresh water, food, timber and quite frankly, the beauty of the natural land. Animal talk is often just a way to convey the state of an environment. As a developing country crippled by war, Afghanistan should take care and manage its environment so it may be efficiently used for generations to come.