Afghanistan Faces an Environmental Crisis

Afghanistan Faces an Environmental Crisis

U.S. bombing, previous conflicts, and drought have destroyed
Afghanistan’s environment, prompting U.N. officials to launch an
investigation next month, according to The New
Scientist.

Much of southeast Afghanistan was covered by forests, reports Fred
Pearce, but now less than 2 percent of the country is forested.
While deforestation occurred mostly under Taliban rule, the
country’s refugee crisis led to damage as well. Trees were cut down
for farming, which environmentalists say will have only short-term
gains.

The refugee crisis also has provoked some to hunt rare snow
leopards to buy safe passage across the Afghanistan-Pakistan
border. Approximately 5,000 snow leopards exist in Central Asia,
and less than 100 lived in Afghanistan before the conflict started
this fall, according to Pearce. Timber, falcons, and medicinal
plants also are reportedly being smuggled into Pakistan.

Other species’ habitats — like those of cranes, bears, gazelles,
and sheep — have come under attack from U.S. and Taliban bombing.
‘The same terrain that allows fighters to strike and disappear back
into the hills has also, historically, enabled wildlife to
survive,’ explains one environmentalist from the Wildlife
Conservation Society.
–Kate Garsombke
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