News Afghan wetland to become protected area for migratory birds


The United Nations has designated the Kol-e Hashmat Khan wetlands in south Kabul a conservation site, the Afghan government announced on 11 June 2017.

The site is an internationally important staging area for birds migrating from their Indo-Pakistani wintering grounds to breeding quarters in Central Asia and Western Siberia along the Central Asian Flyway. It provides vital food and resting areas for thousands of storks, egrets, pelicans and flamingos on their journey north.

Black-winged Stilt
Black-winged Stilt is one of many waterbirds that rely on the Kol-e Hashmat Khan wetlands on their long spring migration (Photo: Romano da Costa).

However, after 40 years of conflict and neglect, this crucial habitat is under threat from the growth in new homes, irrigation systems, rubbish, ‘land-grabbing’ and climate change. In response, the area will now be officially protected by the UN environment agency.

Andrew Scanlon, head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Afghanistan, said: “There are probably more than 300 or 400 species that pass through, though without an accurate count it is hard to be sure.”

“War saw the marshes more or less abandoned until 2005,” Scanlon explains, adding that land-grabbing was common in the chaos of the ’90s as Afghans fought for survival. According to the UN, about 50 ha of wild land were taken over, which the Afghan environmental protection agency, created in 2005, is now trying to recover.

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The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

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