Environmental Issues

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Afghanistan has long been a land of marginal environment-too dry and too cold for much life. Thousands of years of environmental stress by the country's people have dramatically altered the landscape and caused extensive environmental destruction. Because the Afghan people lack the financial means to purchase fuel, they must cut trees, uproot shrubs, and collect dung for burning. Domestic animals overgraze the range. The result is extensive soil erosion by water and wind. Long-term irrigation without flushing has added salt to much of the arable land and destroyed its fertility. Polluted water supplies are common, except in the high mountain regions where few people live permanently. Ancient writings and archaeological evidence show that once rich areas of forest and grassland have been reduced to stretches of barren rock and sand. The government of Afghanistan began to recognize environmental problems in the 1970s with the help of the United Nations and other international agencies. The pressures of the war, however, have diverted attention from these issues and further aggravated the country's environmental state.

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