Ailing Afghanistan

Published: Friday 28 February 2003

-- The first comprehensive UN survey of Afghanistan's environment brings out the dismal state of affairs in the country. After more than two decades of war and three years of drought, air and water quality in the largest towns is badly degraded. The study also reveals chemical pollution, massive deforestation, declining water resources and threat to endangered species.

The United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) surveys of drinking water in four cities -- Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif -- show high levels of faecal contamination. The report documents air pollution in urban areas, mostly from car and truck exhaust and the burning of toxic materials. It also notes serious industrial chemical pollution that workers are exposed to.

Some 20 experts examined 38 urban sites and 35 rural locations. The report says that the degraded environment presents a major stumbling block for the country's reconstruction efforts. It recommends more than 160 measures, including some immediate ones, to improve air and water quality. Others steps relate to longer-term efforts such as restoring forests and managing scarce water resources.

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