Afghanistan - Environment

Afghanistan's most significant ecological problems are deforestation, drought, soil degradation, and overgrazing. Neglect, scorched earth tactics, and the damage caused by extensive bombardments have destroyed previously productive agricultural areas, and more are threatened by tons of unexploded ordnance. Afghanistan has responded to the fuel needs of its growing population by cutting down many of its already sparse forests. Consequently, by late 2002, between 1 and 2% of Afghanistan's land area was forest land. That represented a 33% decrease from 1979. A four-year drought in 2002 emptied rivers and irrigation canals. Another environmental threat is posed by returning refugees to Afghanistan, of which there were over 4 million in Pakistan, Iran, and other countries in 2002, who have migrated to Kabul and other larger cities instead of returning to destroyed villages and fields. This migration has placed stress on the infrastructure of those cities, causing increased pollution and worsening sanitation conditions.

By 2002, 11 species of mammals, 13 species of birds, and 4 plant species of were endangered. Endangered species in Afghanistan included the snow leopard, long-billed curlew, Argali sheep, musk deer, tiger, white-headed duck, Afghani brook salamander, Kabul markhor, and the Siberian white crane. There were thought to be fewer than 100 snow leopards in 2002. The country's Caspian tigers have virtually disappeared. In 2002, there was one pair of Siberian white cranes, with one chick.

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