, Volume 67, Issue 7, pp 1971-1986

Afghanistan: rich resource base and existing environmental despoliation

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Abstract

Because of its climatically stressed dry land and high altitudes, coupled with severe human despoliation amid three decades of war and known rampant corruption, Afghanistan has long had severe environmental problems. Overgrazing, deforestation, “deshrubification,” soil erosion, soil salinization, ground and surface water contamination and water overuse beyond natural recharge, climate change, threats to biodiversity, and natural hazards are the background problems already causing strong environmental stress. With the advent of the newly recognized mineral resources that will be exploited, additional environmental stressors are likely. Agencies of the United Nations, in concert with new national environmental laws and programs, offer some potential for remediation of environmental problems in the face of unrelenting societal pressures to ignore them. Whether Afghanistan will rise out of its status as a failed state depends in some large way upon whether the newly recognized mineral resources are exploited in environmentally benign ways.