Decades of conflict and violence coupled with drought and earthquakes have had devastating impacts not only the people of Afghanistan, but also on its natural environment, once pristine and rich in biological diversity, but now suffering from years of overexploitation of natural resources and habitat loss. It was clear from the outset that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), as part of the overall response by the United Nations, would give its support to the people and authorities of Afghanistan by offering its expertise in post-conflict environmental assessment and analysis. This report presents facts on the state of the environment, specific findings concerning the urban environment and the natural resources of Afghanistan and recommendations on how to improve environmental conditions and policies.
UNEP was able to meet this challenging task thanks to the close cooperation with the Ministry of Water Resources, Irrigation and environment, and I extend my thanks to the Minister, Dr Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, for his collaboration and strong commitment, and for the hard work by his staff. Moreover, the activities were planned in close coordination with the Afghan Assistance Coordination Agency (AACA) and the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA).
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia stands on the threshold of a new and decisive phase in its history as it looks to emerge from the turmoil of armed conflicts and to begin reconstruction and development. It is at this moment that the opportunity must be seized to base plans for economic growth on the principles of sustainable development. This means integrating environmental considerations into all policy areas at all levels to ensure that everyone living in the FYR of Macedonia can breathe clean air and drink clean water. It means provision of universal and affordable access to sanitation, and solid waste disposal, and it means the conservation of the country’s outstanding natural heritage. Above all, it means creating and maintaining the environmental conditions in which investment, employment, health and peace can flourish.
While this vision can only be achieved by the people and Government of FYR of Macedonia, the international community has a vital role to play. Not only in the provision of funding, capacity building and technical support, but also in pressing for environmental issues to be at the top of the development agenda. The United Nations occupies a special role within the donor community. While having access to a broad range of environmental knowledge and resources, the UN, at the same time, has the flexibility to adapt and pursue a policy agenda that closely reflects the immediate needs of the FYR of Macedonia. As a contribution towards the realisation of sustainable development in the FYR of Macedonia this report has been prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country office in the FYR of Macedonia. It presents the results of a Strategic Environmental Policy Assessment (SEPA) carried out in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia during September 2001. The SEPA was conducted by UNEP, in response to UNDP’s formal request for a comprehensive review of environmental policy in the country.
Every conflict generates risks to human health and to the environment. The post-conflict situation in Iraq compounds a range of chronic environmental issues, and presents immediate challenges in the fields of humanitarian assistance, reconstruction and administration.
Now that major military combat operations have ended, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is addressing post-conflict risks to the environment and to human health, and promoting long-term environmental management. Timeliness is paramount. Lessons learned from earlier conflicts show that the immediate environmental consequences must be addressed as soon as possible to avoid a further deterioration of humanitarian and environmental conditions. For this reason, UNEP, as a part of the wider UN family, integrated its post-conflict activities into the UN Humanitarian Flash Appeal launch on 28 March 2003.
Earlier UNEP post-conflict studies also demonstrate that the environment can have major implications for human livelihoods and for sustainable economic development. As such, environmental issues must be integrated across all sectors in post-conflict situations. Following
this most recent conflict, Iraqi citizens may have fears about environmental threats from military activities, such as air pollution, drinking water contamination, and the presence of hazardous substances, including heavy metals and depleted uranium. Objective and reliable information will help set aside such fears where the risk is minimal, and will help to target measurement and clean up activities in areas where the risk is higher. For these reasons, and based on this study and the information currently emerging from Iraq, UNEP is recommending that field research and analysis be carried out in Iraq at the earliest possible time. The approach of this Desk Study is environmental and technical. The intent is not to attach blame for various environmental problems. Rather, it is to provide an overview of chronic and war-related environmental issues, and to identify the steps needed to safeguard the environment. Top priorities include environmental issues that have a direct link with easing the humanitarian situation, especially the restoration of water, power, sanitation networks and ensuring food security.
I am delighted to present this report on the assessment of contaminated sites in Iraq. This pioneering work has been conducted by the Iraqi Ministry of Environment and its professional experts under the guidance and supervision of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The project is part of a series of capacity building activities being undertaken by UNEP, with support from the Government of Japan through the UN Iraq Trust Fund. While UNEP has been undertaking post-conflict environmental assessments since 1999, the situation in Iraq posed some unique challenges. Initial field visits by the UNEP team indicated the need to urgently assess the level of contamination at a number of industrial sites. However, the security situation did not permit UN staff to work inside the country.
UNEP therefore developed a specific approach to assess the contaminated sites using a team of Iraqi experts from various Ministries that were selected and trained by UNEP experts to undertake the work. The data gathered inside Iraq was supplemented with satellite imagery,
and samples were analysed in international laboratories. All of the field work was documented in great detail using global positioning systems and digital cameras. The outcomes of the work highlight a number of important findings and lessons. First and foremost, the report demonstrates that while there are contaminated sites in Iraq, the environmental risks are still very localised and the opportunity exists to initiate immediate clean-up before public health is threatened. Urgent action should be taken as soon as possible to contain the large quantities of toxic chemicals lying unattended and unguarded. In this regard, I am extremely pleased that the findings of this project have resulted in UNEP being awarded additional financial resources by the UN Iraq Trust Fund to initiate clean-up activities. Throughout this work, UNEP has also learned that an approach based on remote supervision, modern communications equipment and remote sensing can produce very useful results even in conditions where the United Nations cannot be present on the ground. This vastly expands the operating envelope for future UNEP interventions in other parts of the world.
This Executive Summary provides readers with a short overview of the key environmental issues, factors and drivers of environmental
change in Afghanistan, and highlights the latest achievements and prospects ahead. It is intended as an overview of the more multifaceted First State of Environment (SOE) Report for Afghanistan, which is being produced by the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) in accordance with section 9(12) of the Environment Law, 2007, and will be published in mid-2008, with the assistance of the United Nations Environment Programme. It is designed for both a national audience (Government officials, community leaders, and natural resource policy-makers at a central and local level) and the broader international community: donors and international organizations, policy-makers in neighbouring countries, people and institutes interested in Afghanistan. It provides in a consolidated format the best available information and also identifies gaps in data on the state of the environment.