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Wed, Apr

Afghanistan Observes Earth Day 2015

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earth-daySpeaking at a 2015 Earth Day event in Kabul on Wednesday, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said increasing air pollution, soil and groundwater contamination and broader environmental degradation in Afghanistan has made it incumbent upon the national unity government to make environmental protection a major priority.

"Starting this upcoming year, no government institution will be able to implement projects without considering the environmental impact, and all the projects will be implemented based on their priority," Chief Executive Abdullah said on Wednesday.

Earth Day began in the United States in 1970, and has since become a global phenomenon, growing in significance as the worldwide threat of global warming has emerged and the effects of human-accelerated climate change intensify. The annual celebration is intended to call attention to the fragility, but also the importance, of Earth's natural environment.

In Afghanistan, religion, security, economics and ethnic-politics dominate the public policy sphere. Many have been willing to sacrifice environmental concerns in the name of military strategy and economic development over the years.

Despite Abdullah's call-to-arms for greater environmental protection in Afghanistan, the country's National Environmental Protection Agency has said that they lack the development budget they need to purchase even just the equipment required for measuring pollutants, the very first step toward protection and preservation.

"This year over $200,000 was allocated for us in order to purchase laboratories for measuring air pollution, but the fund still has not been transferred to our accounts," agency Chairman Ezzatullah Seddiqqi told TOLOnews. "That is why we don't have the funds to purchase the technologies."

At the moment, Afghanistan's natural resources are perhaps the greatest source of environmental degradation in country. Deforestation, land-grabbing for mining and agriculture, improper waste disposal and the spread of unregulated industrial chemicals in soil and through the air are among the major problems environmental experts have identified in Afghanistan's cities and rural communities.

"Today, our natural resources are being looted, and the government has not done anything to prevent it," Kabul University Professor Muhammad Jan told TOLOnews. "I remember that they had ordered a few years back to stop the export of timber from Kunar, but this still has not stopped."

According to environmentalists, Afghanistan is currently on the brown list of countries in the world, with green being the most environmentally friendly, in result of the deforestation of two of the country's largest forests. Yet air pollution is perhaps the more widely noticed issue, as it is a blight that plagues most of Afghanistan's major cities.