"People are mostly not aware of the environmental issues of mining"
This interview with Saeeda Gouhari was conducted at the Future Workshop India and Afghanistan. Saeeda Gouhari is Gender & Livelihoods Officer at Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Afghanistan.
The mining business is quite a new sector in Afghanistan. Who are the main investors and stakeholders?
International companies and NGOs are very interested in Afghanistan's mining. The state does not invest; it's mostly international companies and the private sector. China invested in a big copper ore mining in Afghanistan, also India, and the US tried to invest in some of the mining ores.
Which problems do arise for the people and the environment in Afghanistan, due to mining and the differing interests of the stakeholders?
Some people are not aware of the huge mineral deposits in Afghanistan. When the government deals with mining, the contracts are not published, so that people could read and understand them. They hide some of the mining deals from the media, so people are mostly not aware of the environmental issues of mining.
Due to some mining contracts people got displaced from their land. They were given some compensation by the government and the mining company provided houses, but they didn't pay for the land they took from the people. It's a severe problem, because there is no proper record of lands in Afghanistan, so land rights are often an issue.
How can be ensured that the Afghan people also benefit from this new sector?
Afghanistan recently signed the EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative). So we are hopeful for more transparency in the mining in Afghanistan. We hope that the revenue that generates from the mining sector will be used for security and education, so that people benefit from it.
What is the main problem when you look at the extraction and use of natural resources from a global perspective?
The lack of data about mining deposits in countries is a big issue. If everything was transparent and open for everyone, media and internet, where you could find the information, then it would be good. Otherwise, it will remain a challenge.
Thank you for this interview.