Cli­mate change fu­els in­sur­gency in Afghanistan

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Af­ter two win­ters with­out snow, Kabul res­i­dents are anx­iously scour­ing the hills for the first flakes, wary that the de­ple­tion of this ma­jor source of wa­ter fur­ther fu­els in­sta­bil­ity in war-rav­aged Afghanistan. His­tor­i­cally speak­ing, a snow­less year is highly un­usual for this an­cient cap­i­tal, built 1,500 me­ters above sea-level in the foothills of the Hindu Kush. “Kabul can be with­out gold but not with­out snow”, according to a lo­cal proverb.

But as the world gets warmer, that is chang­ing. “Coun­try­wide, in the last decade nearly ev­ery year has seen ei­ther flood­ing or drought,” Mo­ham­mad Salim, an ex­pert at the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­grams agency said. “And if the cur­rent trends con­tinue, droughts will be­come the new nor­mal.” The moun­tain­ous land-locked coun­try was classed in 2012 as among the most vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change, a world­wide prob­lem that is the sub­ject of a UN con­fer­ence in Mar­rakesh this week.

And it is here that the knock-on ef­fects of global warm­ing will be keenly felt. Around 80 per­cent of Afghanistan’s econ­omy is based on agri­cul­ture. Afghan farm­ers de­pend on re­li­able, year-round sources of sur­face wa­ter from melt­ing snow on moun­tains to ir­ri­gate their crops and wa­ter their live­stock. But only ten per­cent of the coun­try’s land is still farmable be­cause of the im­pact of re­cent cli­mate-re­lated dis­as­ters, Salim says. That in­creas­ingly leaves ru­ral folk in a des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion, says Kazim Ha­mayun, the deputy di­rec­tor of Afghanistan’s Na­tional En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency (NEPA). “If they lose their jobs due to drought, they will join the mil­i­tancy” of the Tale­ban, he said.

Hit and run

“Be­ing a land­locked coun­try, be­sides ter­ror­ism, cli­mate change is a big chal­lenge for Afghanistan. “Snow has de­creased dra­mat­i­cally and the land­scape is not made to ab­sorb rain wa­ter. Droughts and land degra­da­tion can con­trib­ute to ter­ror­ism. It dis­rupts the so­cial order,” he added. The Tale­ban’s in­sur­gency, which they have waged since be­ing ousted from power in 2001 by a US-led coali­tion, has lately ex­panded to mul­ti­ple prov­inces and be­yond the tra­di­tional “sea­son” that be­gins with the spring melt and ends with the first heavy falls of snow. Last year, the fight­ing con­tin­ued into win­ter as less snow made it easy for in­sur­gents to re­main mo­bile and con­duct hit-and-run at­tacks in north­ern and cen­tral Afghanistan.

KABUL: A gen­eral view of the Kabul river is seen in the Kabul. Af­ter two win­ters with­out snow, Kabul res­i­dents are anx­iously scour­ing the hills for the first flakes, wary that the de­ple­tion of this ma­jor source of wa­ter fur­ther fu­els in­sta­bil­ity in war-rav­aged Afghanistan. — AFP

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