Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 67, Issue 7, pp 1971–1986 | Cite as

Afghanistan: rich resource base and existing environmental despoliation

Original Article


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.


Mineral resources Groundwater and surface-water pollution Overgrazing Deforestation Soil erosion Salinization Environmental law 

Supplementary material

12665_2012_1638_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 17 kb)
12665_2012_1638_MOESM2_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 19 kb)
12665_2012_1638_MOESM3_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 13 kb)
12665_2012_1638_MOESM4_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 16 kb)
12665_2012_1638_MOESM5_ESM.docx (22 kb)
Supplementary material 5 (DOCX 22 kb)


  1. Ali SH, Shroder JF (2011) Afghanistan’s Mineral Fortune: multinational influence and development in a post-war economy. Research paper Series: C:1:2011 (1); Institute for Environmental Diplomacy and Security, James Jeffords Center for Policy research, University of Vermont, Burlington. http://www.uvm.edu/ieds/sites/default/files/IEDSAfghanistan2011.pdf. Accessed 17 Nov 2011
  2. Anonymous (2004) Integrated natural resources management plans. U.S. Department of Defense and U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. http://www.fws.gov/habitatconservation/INRMP%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf. Accessed 15 Nov 2011
  3. Anonymous (2005) Standard for quality natural resource management. Natural resources Commission, New South Wales (Australia). http://www.clg.uts.edu.au/pdfs/NRC2005.pdf. Accessed 15 Nov 2011
  4. Anonymous (2007) Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: environmental law. As approved by the National Assembly, unofficial English translation. http://www.afghanweb.com/environment/afghan_environ_law.pdf. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  5. Anonymous (2008) Groundwater overuse could cause severe water shortage. Afghanistan. http://www.afghan-web.com/environment/ground_water.html. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  6. Azimi A, McCauley D (2002) Afghanistan’s environment in transition. Asian Development Bank, South Asia Department, Manila, p 40Google Scholar
  7. Beveridge AS (1975) Babur, ZUM, Babur Nama: J Emperor Babur, Translated from Chagatai Turkicin 1921; reprinted by Sange-Meel Publications, Lahore, PakistanGoogle Scholar
  8. Bishop MP, Shroder JF Jr (2010) Climate change and mountain topographic evolution in the central Karakoram, Pakistan. Special issue on climate change. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 100(4):772–793CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blake P (2006) Afghan study boosts resource view: Geology might reshape economic landscape. AAPG Explorer. https://www.aapg.org/explorer/2006/07jul/afghanistan.cfm. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  10. Breckle S-W (2007) Flora and vegetation of Afghanistan. Basic and applied dryland research 1, 2:155–194. http://www.ag-afghanistan.de/files/breckle_flora.pdf. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  11. Broshears RE, Akbari MA, Chornak P, Mueller DK, Ruddy BC (2005) Inventory of groundwater resources in the Kabul basin, Afghanistan. USGS Afghanistan project Product No. 001; Scientific Investigations report 2005–5090; p 36Google Scholar
  12. Brown L (2009) Can food shortages bring down civilization? Scientific American 300, May, 50–57. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0509-50
  13. Chan L (2007) The lost forests of Afghanistan. UBC Reports, 53(11): p 2. http://www.publicaffairs.ubc.ca/ubcreports/2007/07nov01/afghanistan.html. Accessed 20 Nov 10
  14. De Bie K (2007) An updated Köppen–Geiger climate classification of the world using very high resolution interpolated climate surfaces of monthly P and T data from 1950 to 2000. ITC News 4:16–17Google Scholar
  15. Diamond J (2005) Collapse. Penguin Books, NYGoogle Scholar
  16. Eqrar MN (2010) Cause of groundwater contamination of Kabul City. http://www.armaghan-e-melli.af/spip.php?article579. Accessed 22 Mar 2012
  17. Eswaran H (2001) Soil regions of Afghanistan (original scale 1:1,000,000).US Department of AgricultureGoogle Scholar
  18. Fagen B (1999) Floods, famines, and emperors: el Niño and the fate of civilizations. New York: Basic Books, London: PimlicoGoogle Scholar
  19. Fagen B (2003) The long summer: how climate changed civilization. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. FAO (1996) Afghanistan, promotion of agricultural rehabilitation and development programmes, water resources and irrigation. FAO Project TCP/AFG/4552. November 1996, AREVGoogle Scholar
  21. Favre R, Kamal GM (2004) Watershed atlas of Afghanistan: 1st edn–Working document for planners. http://www.krbp.net/eng_reports/Watershed%20Atlas_Part%20I_II.pdf. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  22. Freitag H (1971) Die natürliche Vegetation Afghanistans. Beiträgezur Flora und Vegetation Afghanistans I. Vegetatio Acta Gebotanica 22:285–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hagen E, Shroder JF Jr, Lu XX, Teufert JF (2010) Reverse engineered flood hazard mapping in Afghanistan: a parsimonious flood map model for developing countries. Quatern Int 226(1–2):82–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Haritashya UK, Bishop MP, Shroder JF Jr, Bush ABG, Bulley HNN (2009) Space-based assessment of glacier fluctuations in the Wakhan Pamir, Afghanistan. Climatic Change 94:5–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hermann NM (1965) Leclimat de l``Afghanistan, ParisGoogle Scholar
  26. Hermann NM, Zillhardt J, Lalande P (1971) Recueil de données des stations météorologiques Del ‘Afghanistan, KabulGoogle Scholar
  27. Hermann NM, Zillhardt J, Lalande P (1974) Cartesclimatiques de l“ Afghanistan, KabulGoogle Scholar
  28. ICARDA, USAID [International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, US Agency for International Development] (2002) Needs assessment on soil and water in Afghanistan: Future harvest consortium to rebuild agriculture in Afghanistan. p 96. http://www.icarda.org/Afghanistan/PDF/NA_SoilWater.pdf. Accessed 20/11/2010
  29. IRIN (2010) Afghanistan: water a serious problem nationwide. UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA). http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=20150. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  30. Jentsch C (1972) Afghanistan NaturräumlicheMöglichkeiten der Weidewirtschaft. Unpublished map provided for National Atlas of AfghanistanGoogle Scholar
  31. Klett TR, Schenk CJ, Wandrey CJ, Charpentier RR, Brownfield ME, Pitman JK, Pollastro RM, Cook TA, Tennyson ME (2012) Assessment of undiscovered oil and gas resources of the Amu Darya Basin and Afghan-Tajik Basin Provinces, Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, 2011. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2011-3154. http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2011/3154/. Accessed 23 Mar 2012
  32. Lawler A (2010) Collapse? What collapse? Societal change revisited. Science 330:907–909CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mack TJ, Chornak MP, Coplen TB, Emerson DG, Litke DW, Plummer LN, Verdin JP, Verstraeten IM, Akbari MA, Rozoi TM (2009) Water resources availability in Kabul, Afghanistan: a conceptual simulation integrating climatologic, hydrogeologic, geochemical, and remotely sensed data. Program with Abstracts, Second Hindu Kush Conference, 27–29 Sept 2009, Kabul Afghanistan, 15–16Google Scholar
  34. McNaughton S, Ritter LR, Henriquez H (2009) Changing rains (map); National Geographic; April issueGoogle Scholar
  35. Otterman J, Walter LS, Schmugge TJ (1976) Observations from ERTS of overgrazing and cultivation impact on the Earth’s surface. Space Research, North Holland Publishing Co., Amsterdam, XVI:45–21Google Scholar
  36. Peters SG (2007) Preliminary assessment of non-fuel mineral resources of Afghanistan, 2007. USGS Fact Sheet 2007–3063. http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2007/3063. Accessed 01 Dec 2010
  37. Qazi A (2009) National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA). http://www.afghan-web.com/environment/nepa.html. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  38. Qureshi AS (2002) Water resources management in Afghanistan: the issues and options. Interantional Water Management Institute, Working Paper 49, Pakistan Country Series No. 14. http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/Publications/Working_Papers/working/WOR49.pdf. Accessed 01 Dec 2010
  39. Saba DS (2001) Afghanistan: environmental degradation in a fragile ecological setting. Int J Sustain Dev World Ecol 8: 279–289. http://www.mindfully.org/Heritage/Afghanistan-Environmental-Degradation-Saba.htm. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  40. SanFilipo J (2005) Assessing the coal resources of Afghanistan. USGS Fact Sheet 2005-3073. Accessed 20 Nov 2010Google Scholar
  41. Sarikaya MA, Bishop PM, Shroder JF, Olsenholler J (2012) Space-based observations of Eastern Hindu Kush glaciers between 1976 and 2007, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Remote Sens Lett 3(1):77–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sayer JA, Van der Zon APM (1981) National parks and wildlife conservation, Afghanistan: a contribution to a conservation strategy. FAO Technical Report, RomeGoogle Scholar
  43. Sever M (2006) Afghanistan has oil. Geotimes. http://www.agiweb.org/geotimes/may06/resources.html. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  44. Shank CC (2008) Biodiversity profile of Afghanistan: an output of the national capacity needs self-assessment for global environmental management for Afghanistan. UNEP. http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/afg_tech/theme_02/afg_biodiv.pdf. Accessed Nov 2010
  45. Shariq A, Chmyriov WM, Stazhilo-Aleksev KF, Dronov VI, Gannon PJ, Lubemov BK, Kafarshiy A Kh, Malyarov EP (1977) Mineral resources of Afghanistan. 2nd edn, United Nations development project AFG/74/012Google Scholar
  46. Shroder JF Jr (1975) National Atlas of Afghanistan; a call for contribution. Afghanistan Journal, Jg. 2:108–111Google Scholar
  47. Shroder JF Jr (1980a) Special problems of glacial inventory in Afghanistan. In: world glacier inventory proceedings Reideralp workshop, Sept 1978 (IAHS-AISH) Publication No. 126, Hydrological Sciences Bulletin pp 142–147Google Scholar
  48. Shroder JF Jr (1980b) Afghanistan’s minerals. Business Week, 27 Oct 1980, p 8Google Scholar
  49. Shroder JF Jr (1981a) Physical resources and the development of Afghanistan. Studies in Comparative International Development xvi(3–4):36–53Google Scholar
  50. Shroder JF Jr (1981b) Russians grab Afghan resources. Omaha World Herald, Thursday, 19 Mar, p 9Google Scholar
  51. Shroder JF Jr (1982) Afghanistan’s unsung riches. The Christian Science Monitor, 74:54, Thursday, 11 FebGoogle Scholar
  52. Shroder JF Jr (1983) The USSR and Afghanistan mineral resources. In: International Mineral Resources a National Perspective. Agnew A (ed.), American Association for Advancement of Science 115–153Google Scholar
  53. Shroder JF Jr (1987) Afghanistan resources and the Soviet Union. Geotimes, vol 32, March 4–5Google Scholar
  54. Shroder JF Jr (1989a) Glacierized areas of Afghanistan, in World Glacier Inventory, Status 1988. Haeberli W, Bosch H, Scherler K, Ostrem G, and Wallen CC, pp C39–C40 and C346–C353, IAHS (ICSI)-UNEP-UNESCO, Teufen, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  55. Shroder JF Jr (1989b) Slope failure: extent and economic significance in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In: Brabb EE, Harrod BL, Balkema AA (eds) Landslides: extent and economic significance in the world. Rotterdam, Netherlands, pp 325–341Google Scholar
  56. Shroder JF Jr (1989c) Afghanistan resources and Soviet Policy in Central and South Asia. In: Afghanistan and the Soviet Union: Collision and Transformation. Hauner M, Canfield R (eds.) Westview Press, pp 101–119Google Scholar
  57. Shroder JF Jr (2003) Reconstructing Afghanistan: Nation building or nation failure? Geotimes, October 5Google Scholar
  58. Shroder JF Jr (2004) Afghanistanredux: Better late than never? Geotimes, October: 34–38Google Scholar
  59. Shroder JF Jr (2007) Afghanistan’s development and functionality: Renewing a collapsed state. GeoJournal 70:91–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Shroder JF Jr (2008) Remote sensing and GIS as counterterrorism tools for homeland security: The case of Afghanistan. In: Sui DZ (ed) Geospatial Technologies and Homeland Security. Springer Science and Business Media B.V, The Netherlands, pp 11–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Shroder JF Jr (2009) Saving Afghanistan: redevelopment one resource at a time. Earth 54(7):38–47Google Scholar
  62. Shroder JF Jr, Assifi T (1987) Afghan mineral resources and Soviet exploitation. In: Klass R (ed) Afghanistan and the Soviet Union: the great game revisited. Freedom House Pub, New York, pp 97–134Google Scholar
  63. Shroder JF Jr, Bishop MP (2010) Glaciers of Afghanistan. In: Williams RS Jr, Ferrigno JG (eds) Satellite image atlas of glaciers of the World–Asia US Geological Survey Professional Paper 1386-F3: 167–199Google Scholar
  64. Shroder JF Jr, Watrel RH (1992) Mineral resources in Afghanistan (summary of report for USAID). AACAR Bulletin (Association for the Advancement of Central Asian Research), 5(2)Google Scholar
  65. Shroder JF Jr, Weihs BJ (2010) Geomorphology of the Lake Shewa landslide dam, Badakshan, Afghanistan, using remote sensing data. Geografiska Annaler 92A(4):471–486Google Scholar
  66. Shroder JF Jr, Cookson F, Belasky P, Roshan Y, Watrel R, Wells M (1992) Mineral resources in Afghanistan. Nathan Berger Afghanistan Studies Project, Final Report submitted to the Office of the A.I.D. Representative for Afghan Affairs under Contract No. 306-0205-C-00-9385-00Google Scholar
  67. Shroder JF Jr, Bishop MP, Bulley HNN, Haritashya UK, Olsenholler J (2007) Global land ice monitoring from space (GLIMS) project regional center for Southwest Asia (Afghanistan and Pakistan. In: Baudo R, Tartari G, Vuillermoz E (eds), Shroder JF Jr (series ed), 2007. Mountains, Witnesses of Global Changes: Research in the Himlaya and Karakoram. Under the auspices of SHARE-Asia (Stations at High Altitude for Research on the Environment inAsia. Developments in Earth Surface Processes 10, Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  68. Shroder JF Jr, Weihs B, Schettler M (2011) Mass movement in northeast Afghanistan. Journal of Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, doi:10.1016/j.pce.2011.03.003
  69. UNEP (2003a) Afghanistan: post-conflict environmental assessment. Switzerland. http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/afghanistanpcajanuary2003.pdf. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  70. UNEP (2003b) Afghanistan’s environmental recovery: a post-conflict plan for people and their natural resources. http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/UNEP_afghanistan_lr.pdf. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  71. UNEP (2006) Progress report on the capacity building and institutional developmentprogramme for environmental management in Afghanistan: 2003 – 2005. 31 pp. http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/afg_PR_jan06.pdf. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  72. UNEP (2007) A guide to Afghanistan’s environmental law. http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/afg_env_law.pdf. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  73. UNEP (2008) Capacity building and institutional development programme for environmental management in Afghanistan: Progress report January–December 2007. http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/UNEP_afg_pr_1-12_2007.pdf. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  74. UNEP (2009) UNEP in Afghanistan: laying the foundations for sustainable development. http://www.unep.org/pdf/UNEP_in_Afghanistan.pdf. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  75. UNEP (2010) Conflicts and disasters. United Nations Environment Programme environment for development. http://www.unep.org/conflictsanddisasters/UNEPintheRegions/CurrentActivities/Afghanistan/tabid/287/Default.aspx. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  76. UNEP/NEPA (2008) Afghanistan’s Environment. ISBN 978-82-7701-048-9. http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/afg_soe_E.pdf. Accessed 20 Nov 2010
  77. United Nations (1977) Draft plan of action to combat desertification. UN Conference on Desertification, Nairobi, August–September 1977, Document A/CONF, 74/L.36.29. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Environmental Program, 1977bGoogle Scholar
  78. USGS (2006) Assessment of undiscovered petroleum resources of northern Afghanistan, 2006. USGS Fact Sheet 2006-3031, March. Accessed 20 Nov 2010Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emeritus Professor of Geology and GeographyUniversity of Nebraska at OmahaOmahaUSA

Personalised recommendations