KABUL: In Afghanistan, Americans are working with the government in Kabul to create something that’s never existed before in this war-ravaged country — a national park. It takes several hours by four-wheel drive vehicle to get to the 220-square-mile site – riding on rocky roads that wind through mountains and across streams. But the drive is easy compared to the obstacles planners face to make this park in central Bamyan province a reality.
Between mountains in the Hindu Kush range lie six, sky-blue lakes. They are the lifeline of 15 villages where people live pretty much as they have for centuries. The lake region and its many streams, called Band-e-Amir, boasts some of the most beautiful landscape in Afghanistan — including crystal-clear waterfalls, cascading over naturally formed dams that keep the lakes in place.
Such natural wonders make Band-e-Amir the perfect place to create Afghanistan’s first national park, says Bamyan Governor Habiba Surabi. “This is one of our desires, one of our wish that we at least will have something for the tourism attraction, the tourism destination here in Bamyan,” he says. Surabi and other Afghan officials have joined forced with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other foreign donors to make the park a reality. Not just as a tourist haven, but as a place where the country’s fledgling conservation laws can take root.
A planned, paved road will make Band-e-Amir more accessible, although it could take years to build. “There was just kind of sense with the donor community as well as the government that this particular natural resource was something that was so attractive, desirable and generally worth of protection that it needed to be sort of made an example of,” says Loren Stoddard, USAID’s director of alternative development and agriculture office in Afghanistan.-SANA