Tim Hingham – Regional Information Officer, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Thank you and welcome to the press launch of UNEP’s Afghanistan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment Report. We have about one hour so what we are going to do is hear statements from Dry Ahmad Yusuf Nuristan, Minister for Irrigation, Water Resources and Environment of the Afghanistan Transitional Authority and from Pokka Heaviest, Chairman of the UNEP Afghanistan Task Force followed by questions and answers. Now we’ll do that in English and probably spend 35-45 minutes like that. Then Dr. Nuristan will take the opportunity to speak in the local languages and brief the Afghan Press… Then if the international media have particular questions for Mr. Heaviest they can do that just outside the room. So now I would like to welcome both Minister Nuristan, who will give and opening statement and Mr. Heaviest.
Dreamed Yusuf Nuristan – Minister for Irrigation, Water Resources and Environment of the Afghanistan Transitional Authority
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, reporters, and journalists, I thank you for your attendance at this important session of the launching of the Afghanistan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment Report. As was explained to you, after the statements we will be ready to take some of your questions. Welcome to this special day, during which we are launching the UNEP post conflict Environmental Assessment; an important document, which spells out the linkages between conflict and sustainable development. This report alarms us that environmentally sound development of Afghanistan is not a luxury, but an essential pre-requisite and precondition for improving the living condition of the Afghan people and for avoiding environment related conflicts and disasters.
Conflict causes environmental destruction, as we can well read from the Assessment report. Similarly continued environmental depletion causes conflict. Increasing scarcity of natural resources will lead to struggles over its access. Doesn’t oil, a natural resource, cause much turbulence in the current international political power balances? Doesn’t access to clean water or access to vegetation for grazing purposes determine much of the behavior of the Afghan people? The draught has caused widespread displacement. As long as the drought continues, people will increasingly use the scarce ground and surface water sets the parameters for sustainable development in Afghanistan at this point in time, and requires strong and effective policies. Effective environmental and natural resources base is key to breaking the vicious circle between conflict and environmental depletion. It is key to rebuild the natural resources required for our agricultural production, our livelihoods, our livelihoods, our economy, our security and our existence.
With many refugees having returned to places nearby the major cities, our urban environments are increasingly challenged. Urban problems with clean drinking water, sanitation, air pollution, waste disposal, and heating directly relate to people’s health situation – a record on which Afghanistan scores extremely low.