by Abdullah Qazi / September 21, 2008
Last updated: March 17, 2009

Deforested Area in Afghanistan. Photo credit: Masoud Popalzai/IRIN

Scientific studies have shown that a large part of ancient Afghanistan was covered with forests. However, today, deforestation is occurring at an alarming rate, and currently, only about 2% of Afghanistan is covered with forests. Generally, environmental experts recommend that 15 percent of a country like Afghanistan should be forested in order to prevent topsoil erosion and sustain good air quality. The largest areas of forests are located in the provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar, and Nuristan. In fact, environmentalist have stated that if the current trend is not reversed, all forests in Afghanistan will disappear in the next 30 years. As the forests go, so will lots of wildlife species, further damaging Afghanistan’s biodiversity. Not only will Afghanistan suffer economically, but there will also be an increase in fatalities and damages as a result of flooding and even avalanches.

Causes of Deforestation in Afghanistan

  1. Smuggling/illegal activities: Truck loads of timber leave Afghanistan every day, and are taken to Pakistan. The government needs to crack down on illegal logging, unfortunately, there may be some people in the government secretly involved in the timber smuggling business.
  2. War: Afghanistan has been at war ever since the Soviet Invasion. The Soviet army inflicted lots of damage by uprooting numerous pistachio trees, and the various battles caused numerous uncontrolled forest fires which destroyed thousands of trees. The Taliban were also known for their “scorched earth” tactics.
  3. Fuel use: Afghans have very little options in terms of the energy needed to keep warm and cook their foods. Since what little power plants and electrical lines Afghanistan did have were mostly destroyed during the many years of war, Afghans have resorted to cutting down trees and burning the wood to meet their energy needs.
  4. Proper reforestation is not occurring as there is little or no incentives offered by the government.
  5. Forests lands are being used for agriculture.
  6. Urban encroachment: As living resources get less and less, people are moving in and settling in forest areas.

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