By: Najma Yari
On August 9th, 2010 Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS) and the Foundation for Culture and Civil Society (FCCS) hosted an environment conference titled “Environmental Protection is a Need for Everyone” in Kabul aiming at raising awareness of environmental issues in Afghanistan and attracting governmental authorities, civil society organizations and people to create one voice on overcoming environmental problems.
Intellectuals, national and international ecology specialists, civil society activists, governmental authorities and journalists spoke on various topics such as environmental rights and duties of citizens, livelihood rights, garbage management, forests of Afghanistan and many relevant topics.
Environmental protection is a hot discussed topic in industrialized countries, especially in Europe, whereas in developing countries such as Afghanistan this issue is not very popular due to poverty, war and the daily struggle to survive.
Therefore the HBS and FCCS hosted a conference on environmental protection in order to raise awareness and provide a platform to present strategies of improving the environmental structure in Afghanistan in cooperation of stakeholders.
The hosts, Mr. Timor Hakimyar, Chief Executive Director of FCCS and Dr. Bente Aika Scheller, Country Director of HBS Afghanistan welcomed all guests and opened the conference.
Dr. Scheller encouraged all guests to participate in reviving the old beauty of Kabul and said that advice from experts is important, but still the engagement of all members of society is needed. It is not only the duty of the next generation to clean up the mess we leave behind, but every citizen's to work on a better and healthier surrounding.
The Municipal of Kabul city, Mr. Mohammad Younos Nawandaish, presented his program of cleaning Kabul city with the help of the Afghan Government and the Afghan citizens.According to him one of the main reasons why pollution in Kabul has increased is the growing number of residents.In 2002 approximately 1,5 Million Afghans lived in the capital, today the population has increased up to 5 Million, which means a big challenge for the Government to provide houses, drinking water, garbage transportation, etc.This is why he invited everyone to make further suggestions on how to clean and conserve a green and healthy city.
Dr. Hakim Satar, representative of the Ministry of Public Health discussed the negative impact of garbage on public health and the importance of having a clean environment in order to keep citizens safe and healthy.
Mr. Nisar Habibi, from Kabul Municipality, enumerated following problems that insecurity, poverty, no proper shelter and being jobless are the reasons which keep people’s mind busy rather than thinking and caring about their surroundings and environment, on the other hand, most citizens do not know that garbage needs to be separated; they throw all their leftovers on the same spot. Unpaved streets are also another cause of producing dusts and mud on seasonal basis. Mr. Habibi also mentioned that garbage collecting is a very important issue but its recycling and burning in an environmental friendly way is much more essential.
Furthermore he pointed out that there are some governmental burning stations which are protection tools from spreading diseases amongst people, situated about 30 km outside Kabul. Unfortunately, these stations are captured and controlled by gunmen and warlords who are suppressing the process of garbage burning.
“Let’s make our surrounding green and clean, protecting our lives by planting trees, a tree for me is a tree for Afghanistan”, appealed Ms. Nasreen, member of the greenery administration of Kabul Municipality. She presented the Kabul Greenery Activity plan to the participants and emphasized that without people’s participation, we cannot expect to have a green environment.
Abdul Gheyas Safi, representative of the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) presented the plans of “Adding the issue of environment protection in the development program and school curricula plus “sustainable development as a potential factor for the realization of the rights of national sanctuaries”.
Many academicians from Kabul University also participated at the conference and demonstrated various environmental problems, Mr.Naasiry, one of the professors from Agriculture faculty talked about desertification, he explained that desertification is a “man-made phenomenon” therefore; it is a must to consider having more greeneries, parks, plants protection and garbage management measures.
Mr. Eqrar, the Head of the Department of Geology from Kabul University, talked about underground water pollution, he warned that people will be in high risk in coming years unless protection measures are provided.
Christoph Reuter, a German journalist who has done researches on forests of Afghanistan, gave a presentation on the last original forest of Afghanistan. He reported about his trip to Nuristan and showed many pictures of the forest, warning that the forest is vanishing although the Tribal Forest Police (TFP) is trying to protect it; still the local people are afraid of foreign companies exploiting their wood.Though contacting relevant governmental and non governmental authorities, no response is met for their demand.
Mr. Salimoov, representative of the Development of Environmental Affairs Program from Tajikistan, presented the program implemented by Tajikistani Government in Dushanbe, the capital.
Although Dushanbe was considered to be one of the most polluted cities in Asia some years ago, the Government in cooperation of people took the initiative to change a chemical polluted city to a beautiful and green one.He shared the experiences of hard work of Dushanbe citizens in protecting their environment and insisted on experience and knowledge sharing between Afghanistan and neighboring countries.
The Chairman of FCCS and also a member of the Wolesi Jirga (Afghan Parliament), Mr. Mir Ahmad Joyenda, closed the event and expressed his hope that this will not be the last occasion to raise awareness of environmental protection and also his enthusiasm of new initiatives.He further said “An essential way of making improvement in environmental issues is education”.
Academics, governmental representatives, university professors and students, civil society activists, ecology specialists and journalists took part at the event. Debates, question and answer sessions were other part of the conference which were actively participated by the audience.
A few days after the “Environmental Protection is a need for everyone”conference, waste containers with the slogan “our city is our home”were installed on the streets of Kabul, a first step towards making Afghanistan a cleaner and green place.