The Taliban Must Stop Deforestation in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan

The National Environmental Protection Agency of Afghanistan (NEPA)is concerned about illegal deforestation in Nuristan province. The government agency has asked the Taliban to stop unrestrained deforestation. BahirgolSaberi, an employee of the NEPA office in Nuristan says in a video clip that he was witnessing illegal logging in the city. “It is heart-breaking,” Saberi has said. “Illegal deforestation is going on in the cruellest way possible – this is brutality.”

“We expect the authorities will stop these actions soon,” the NEPA said in a statement on Saturday night.

Forests are among the public assets that play a crucial role in having a healthy environment, preventing floods, and beautifying the natural landscapes, the statement said. The NEPA has said that all citizens should contribute to the forest protection.

Meanwhile, the forests of Nuristan province were declared as protected areas and/or national parks in June last year. The National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) had insisted at the time that the area was under intensive care.

Large areas of eastern provinces in Afghanistan, including Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Nangarhar, Kunar, and Nuristan, are covered with infertile forests. Similarly, the northern and north-western provinces including Takhar, Kunduz, Samangan, Jawzjan, Balkh, Faryab, Badghis, and the north-eastern parts of Herat province have large farms of fruitful forests including pistachios and almonds.

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, about five percent of Afghanistan’s total land area was covered with infertile forests. There were also one million hectares of oak and two million hectares of pine and cypress forests, mostly in eastern parts of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock had recently announced that all forest areas in the country would reach more than 1.7 million hectares. Now the forests have been reduced by about 60%.

Concerns about deforestation are not limited to Nuristan. There is also concern about deforestation in Kunar province. Earlier, local officials in Kunar province in the previous government said that a number of Kunar district police commanders and other local officials in the province were involved in smuggling plywood to Pakistan. Officials had said hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of lumber were smuggled into Pakistan each year from Nari, Vata-pur, Sarkani, Chapa-dara, Chouki, Marhura, and Asmaar districts.In most cases, Kunar police were reportedly involved.

In this regard, despiteour best efforts, the Taliban refused to talk.