Today, Bamyan Governor Dr. Habiba Sarobi dedicated Band-e-Amir National Park in central Afghanistan. Today’s dedication is the result of years of effort on behalf of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, including the passage of the Environmental Law in 2007 and the park’s official declaration on April 22.
The centerpiece of Band-e-Amir is a series of six clear, azure-blue lakes in an austere setting of high-altitude red limestone cliffs. The lakes are held back by natural travertine dams, created by calcium deposits. These dams differ from the improbably sheer-sided Band-e-Haibat (Lake of Awe) to the expanses of white travertine at Band-e-Panir (Lake of Cheese). Covering 59,000 hectares, the park’s combination of desert, water, and rock make for landscapes that should be preserved for future generations.
The national park and expected growth in domestic and international tourism will lead to increased economic development in the Band-e-Amir area. Popular with international tourists in the 1970s, Band-e-Amir and Bamyan Province are secure areas in Afghanistan, and environmentally friendly hotels and restaurants are planned to meet the needs of future visitors. The growth of the tourism industry will improve the lives and income potential for local residents, reducing their dependence on subsistence agriculture.
Since 2006, the United States Government and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have been working with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and local communities surrounding Band-e-Amir to establish the national park and develop a park management plan. This cooperation follows efforts initiated in the 1970s by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Afghan Tourist Organization, stalled by nearly three decades of war. Now, park management is directed by the Band-e-Amir Protected Area Committee (BAPAC), a government/community collaborative body that enables local residents to provide input into the management of their land.
“Band-e-Amir’s establishment is indicative of what can be achieved when national and local government representatives work in partnership with area residents and the international community to create positive economic opportunities,” said U.S. Ambassador Eikenberry. “In time, Band-e-Amir will draw tourists from around the globe, because these lakes are truly one of the most remarkable wonders of the world.”
Vice President Karim Khalili; National Environmental Protection Agency Director-General Prince Mostapha Zaher; Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Asif Rahimi; U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry; citizens of Bamyan; and NGO representatives gathered at Band-e-Amir’s pristine lakes to celebrate this important step towards protecting Afghanistan’s environment.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock; the National Environmental Protection Agency; and the Bamyan Governor’s office have been essential partners in the establishment of the national park, working in cooperation with the U.S. Government and international organizations including the Asia Development Bank, the Afghan Conservation Corps/UNOPS, the Aga Khan Foundation, and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). USAID funding to WCS provided the support for biodiversity surveys, community consultation, and coordination with the provincial and national governments during the process to establish Band-e-Amir.