Students take the lead on environmental conservation
4 June 2009 - Afghanistan has been marking World Environment Day with events throughout this week.
Today, it was the turn of students at Kabul University to celebrate the occasion with a day-long function that included presentations, speeches, and theatrical performances to create awareness on the environment.
“Our students are enthusiastic about celebrating World Environment Day every year. Not only is this day relevant to the whole world, it also has great importance to Afghanistan,” said Professor Mohsini, the Dean of the Department of Agriculture at Kabul University.
Efforts to bring attention to this issue, however, do not end after 5 June, the day designated by the UN General Assembly in 1972, to stimulate awareness about the environment.
Professor Mohsini also helps run the Centre for Environmental Conservation (CEC), a body set up nearly a decade ago, that currently has 300 student members.
“We do activities related to the environment during the entire year. Our university also offers a subject on environment conservation. Besides a publication called Environment that prints twice a year, we hold conferences, seminars and field projects,” said Professor Mohsini.
Students at the centre are currently doing research on the grave problem of water shortage in Afghanistan and are working toward solving this problem.
“We do have different sources of water here, but no technology to harness it. Rainfall has been good this year, but prior to that the country, especially in the west and south west, has been drought-affected,” said Professor Mohsini.
He blames the three decades of war for many of the environmental problems that afflict Afghanistan today saying that large swathes of forests, vegetation and wildlife have been destroyed as a result of the conflict.
“Also, after the war, migration from the rural areas to the city dramatically increased. This has caused water shortages, increase in cars, and, therefore, more pollution,” he added.
Mohammad Haris, a student member of the centre who also took part in today’s function, believes the culture of environmental conservation is inherently weak in Afghanistan.
“We want to change this by celebrating days like this,” said Mohammad.
“I’m confident we can affect significant change by having awareness programmes like the one we just had today. But, for that to happen, we have to spread the message inside schools, colleges, and mosques,” he added.
Funding is, however, proving to be a hurdle in this fight against global warming and in educating people on the systematic damage to the country’s ecology.
The centre manages to survive on a paltry budget, relying largely on grants from the university and agencies such as the United Nations Development programme, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
UNDP, which also supported today’s function, has been funding various initiatives at the university under the Strengthening Approaches for Integration of Sustainable Environmental Management in Afghanistan project.
“Our goal is to create broad-based environmental awareness and to mobilize youth to bring change in their habits toward protecting the environment,” said Mohammad Sayed Qazi, UNDP’s project manager.
UNDP also distributed 20,000 brochures and magazines around the country to mark the day.
By Aditya Mehta, UNAMA