USAID Helps Establish First National Park in Afghanistan

For Immediate Release

Thursday, April 23, 2009
USAID Press Office
202-712-4320

Kabul, Afghanistan - In celebration of International Earth Day, the Director General of Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) declared Band-e-Amir as Afghanistan's first national park. This official designation affords legal protection to the lakes and surrounding landscape, and will ensure sustainable environmental management for this area of great natural beauty. Since 2006, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been working with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and local communities surrounding Band-e-Amir to establish the national park.

Band-e-Amir is a series of six lakes in central Bamyan Province, and the national park covers 56,000 hectares of land. The lakes present a stunning visual landscape, with their clear, azure-blue color set against red-rock cliffs and dry grasslands. The lakes are held back by natural travertine dams, created by calcium deposits. Some of the dams are breathtaking: 30-foot rock walls stretching across the valley in long, graceful arcs. The combination of desert, water, and rock make for landscapes that rival those of national parks anywhere in the world.

To ensure the park's long-term sustainability, USAID, through its implementing partner the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), founded a local institution to manage the proposed park and helped to prepare a park management plan. USAID also advised the government on the development of the legal framework for establishing protected areas. The official declaration enhances the Afghanistan's ability to manage its natural resources, and will help bring international recognition to this area of great natural beauty.

The national park designation will also encourage economic development in the fifteen villages surrounding Band-e-Amir. Before the years of war and Taliban rule, Band-e-Amir was a popular tourist destination, and recently, tourism has begun to increase. With help from USAID and its implementing partners WCS, Ecodit, and the Agha Khan Network, local entrepreneurs are already building small shops, restaurants, and hotels - in accordance with the park's environmental management plan - to serve the growing number of tourists. A campground is also planned. These improvements are expected to attract more Afghan and international tourists over the coming years, contributing to Afghanistan's economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.

Last updated: December 15, 2014

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