Unnoticed victims of the Afghan wars

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Though you'd be hard-pressed to find it in the news, other things equally devastated by Afghanistan's decades of war are the flora, fauna, and the environment of the country. The problems these face have a direct impact on the future of the country, and their deterioration will complicate and hinder the recovery and rebuilding process.

Topography: Covering an area of 647,500 square mile, Afghanistan is slightly smaller than the state of Texas. It is a rough, mountainous country divided by the Pamir and HinduKush ranges. The Hindukush run across the country from north-east to south-west, with lower ranges radiating in all directions. The west and south are lowlands, while the east and southeast are foot hills to the mountains. Afghanistan's climate is influenced by the topography, with low rainfall of 23-37cm, except in the southwest where it is often less than 12cm. A major part of the precipitation is as snow. In the south and east this melts quickly, while in the mountains the snow cover lasts. Most of the precipitation usually falls between October and April. Afghanistan's rivers are fed by mountain streams. In the north is the Amu Darya, which receives water from the Pamirs, in the central part of the country is the Harirud that flows to the west/northwest to the border with Iran, and in the southwest is the Helmland river, which starts in the central Hindukush then passes through the southwest and passes into Iran. Afghanistan has a few, small lakes, and some salt marshes on the western border with Iran.

Besides the destruction of towns, villages, and infrastructure, continuous war since 1979 has also wreaked the following havoc:

Thus we see that besides the people the very land has been ravaged by the years of war. Klaus Toepfer (Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program - UNEP) in December '01 called for environmental issues to be part of any international recovery program for Afghanistan. As he stated so well, "A healthy environment is a prerequisite for sound and sustainable development. People can not secure real and sustainable economic development against a background of contaminated water, polluted land, and marginalized natural resources"

© SNi 01/30/02