Twenty years of war in Afghanistan have not only taken an appalling human toll; they’ve laid waste to the nation’s environment, according to a survey just completed by the United Nations Environment Programme. The survey found that more than 50 percent of the forests in three Afghan provinces have been destroyed in the last quarter-century, and wildlife such as otters, wild boar, Bactrian deer and birds of prey are all suffering from environmental degradation. Furthermore, as few as 12 percent of the country’s citizens have safe drinking water; solid-waste-management problems are rampant; poorly maintained oil refiners and other factories pose grave human and environmental health risks; and medical waste from hospitals is being disposed of into streets and wells. UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said the findings showed that restoring the environment will be critical to rebuilding Afghanistan.
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