Five four-member teams comprised of both Afghan and international experts will collect samples and examine sites around the country, according to UNEP. Among other tasks, the teams are charged with identifying pollution hotspots and other health threats, identifying strategies to protect and improve Afghanistan’s natural resources, and training the country’s own experts in environmental protection. The experts’ report, which will be published in December, will include recommendations for dealing with environmental threats, increasing Afghanistan’s capacity for environmental management, creating jobs in the environmental sector, and implementing international environmental agreements.”Although often forgotten when conflicts end and reconstruction begins, the natural environment is the foundation for all human society and civilization,” said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. “To succeed in the long term, the rebuilding of Afghanistan must therefore include efforts to revive and protect wildlife and ecosystems, clean up contaminated sites, and manage natural resources such as freshwater and forests more sustainably.”Pekka Haavisto, Chairman of the UNEP Afghanistan Task Force, said three decades of conflict in the country had ravaged the environment. “Assessing and repairing the country’s environment will prove vital to the long-term well being of the Afghan people,” he stressed. “In addition, protecting the environment will support sustainable rural development and enhance job creation in Afghanistan.”

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