Today, however, there is reason to hope that things are improving. Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), has developed a waste management plan to clean up the wetland, and restore it to its former glory.
With technical support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme, MAIL and National Environmental Protection Agency is supporting communities and civil society organizations to restore and maintain the Kol-e-Hashmat Khan wetland habitat.
The MAIL plan includes measures to restore and safeguard species diversity and populations of migratory waterfowl. To deal with the waste problem, trash cans, garbage bags and trucks are being provided to nearby communities, to ensure that refuse is dealt with properly, rather than being dumped in the lake.
The work is supported by an awareness-raising campaign involving door-to-door visits, as well as larger events. Around 200 volunteers have been mobilized and trained on environmental laws and policies. These volunteers, along with trained MAIL rangers, patrol the wetland, ensuring that rules are respected.
Already, there have been visible improvements. The water level in the lake is now up to two meters, and there has also been a noticeable decrease in unlawful hunting and egg-collecting. Still, much more remains to be done to return Kol-e-Hashmat Khan to anything like its former state.
There is also another sign, which Rabani has noticed, which may give grounds for hope. As, as the level of the lake has risen, and the water has become cleaner, the birds have begun to return to Kol-e-Hashmat Khan.
UNDP through its GEF Small Grants Programme, and Biodiversity project supports MAIL conservation work in Kol-e-Hashmat Khan wetland and Band-e-Amir National Park. The projects focus on decreasing pressures on natural resources and conserving ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.