Afghanistan is a landlocked nation located in South Asia. The country had an estimated population of 35 million in 2016 and the city of Kabul is the national capital. The official languages of Afghanistan are Pashto and Dari, and Islam is the predominant religion. Afghanistan is governed as a unitary presidential Islamic republic. National parks are relatively new in Afghanistan, as the first (Band-e Amir National Park) was established in 2009, while the second (Wakhan National Park) was established in 2014.
The National Parks of Afghanistan
Band-e Amir National Park
Band-e Amir National Park was established in 2009 as Afghanistan's first national park. The park was developed as an initiative by the US government, which contributed about $1 million towards its creation. The park is located in a remote area of the Bamyan Province, and is not accessible by any roads. Nevertheless, according to the mission director working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Afghanistan, thousands of Afghans visit the park annually. Therefore, the park has generated many jobs and attracted significant tourism, which are important to the local economy. Although the park is of great benefit to the Afghan community, residents believe it should not have been a priority, and instead schools, hospitals, and infrastructure are more pressing needs. However, champions of the park believe it is significant because it will protect the forest, fauna, and flora.
Wakhan National Park
Wakhan National Park was established in 2014 as Afghanistan's second national park. The park covers an area of 4,200 square miles, which is 25% larger than Yellowstone National Park in the United States. The park plays a significant role in preserving the regions's mountains, diverse wildlife, and indigenous population. The wildlife within Wakhan National Park include red foxes, snow leopards, Pallas’s cat, ibex, stone martens, and Marco Polo sheep. The Marco Polo sheep is the largest wild sheep in the world, and its horns can grow as long as six feet. Additionally, there are nine species of wild cats inhabiting Wakhan National Park. There are about 15,000 indigenous people living within Wakhan National Park, who speak either the Krygyz or Wakhi language. Following an agreement by the Afghanistan government, locals co-manage the park with the federal government. Furthermore, they have gotten jobs such as rangers, managers, and other park personnel. The inhabitants of the land also herd their livestock on the land as a means of earning a living. A major threat faced by the park is poaching and overgrazing.
Protected Areas in Afghanistan
In addition to the two national parks, there are several protected areas within Afghanistan. These areas include Ajar Valley Nature Reserve, Dashte-Nawar Waterfowl Sanctuary, Khulm Landmark Protected Area, Nuristan Nature Reserve, and Zadran National Reserve. Protected areas are significant because they preserve the ecological, natural, and cultural values of specified areas.