Photo: Kern Hendricks via Scientific American

Deforestation threatens Nuristan’s forests and unique ecosystem

Illegal logging and uncontrolled deforestation have put Nuristan province’s once-rich and dense forests and diverse ecosystem at risk of ruin, according to a report in Scientific American magazine.

Nursitan and the neighbouring Kunar province have been home to “oldest and most ecologically diverse forests.” But decades long continued deforestation has degraded the lives of communities and the environment, made worse by the dire economic situation in the area.

Although the Taliban has banned logging, according the Scientific American, the ban is rarely enforced as the locals depend on logging to feed their families, with timber being in high demand in the region. And the group itself relied on it to finance its insurgency against the previous government and international forces.

“For decades, the illegal timber trade has been a crucial income source for multiple groups vying for power within eastern Afghanistan—including the Taliban and, more recently, the Afghan offshoot of the Islamic State known as Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). Illegally harvested wood is most often smuggled east into Pakistan, which provides a consistent market for as much timber as Afghan smugglers can provide,” the report says.

A logger rests after felling a tree in Nuristan. Photo: Photo: Kern Hendricks via Scientific American

Afghanistan is among countries worst affected by climate, being made worse without any environmental protection programmes.

 “Before the [U.S.-backed] Islamic Republic government, there were no laws controlling the cutting of trees or selling of timber. At that time we didn’t fully understand the harm that logging was causing to the environment—but we could sell what we cut freely in the bazaar and also send it to other provinces,” a resident in Nuristan told the magazine.

Criminal gangs, known as “timber mafias”, the report says, hold  “immense power over local officials and would bribe or threaten anyone who moved to restrict their business.”