The beauty of the areaâs six cobalt-blue Band-e-Amir lakes always stuns visitors to central Bamyan province. Natural travertine dams, created by calcium deposits over many years, support the lakes. They stretch across the valley in long graceful arcs, and merge into a strikingly beautiful landscape of stone, desert, and water. The vistas rival those of national parks anywhere in the world.
Since 2006, USAID has been working through its implementing partner, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), to develop the organizations and foster the consensus needed for creation of a national park in the lakes area. The efforts ultimately resulted in the Earth Day declaration in 2009, of Band-e-Amir as Afghanistanâs first national park by the Director General of Afghanistanâs National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA).
Afghanistanâs Environment Law requires local management of protected areas. To fulfill that mandate, WCS initially educated the residents in the 13 villages located within the territory of the park about the economic opportunities that national park status would provide. The Band-e-Amir Protected Area Committee (BAPAC) recruited villagers to be members. BAPAC and WCS jointly prepared a management plan for the park, and WCS assisted local officials in successfully navigating the national park proposal process.
With USAID support, WCS is now training rangers to protect the flora and fauna in the park, and is educating the provincial and national government officials who must manage park operations and ensure sustainability. WCS continues to help the government develop laws and policies on protected areas and species and community-based natural resource management.
In anticipation of national park status, local entrepreneurs had already begun building small shops, restaurants, and hotels to serve tourists. USAID-funded partners provided guidance to help them place these structures away from the most ecologically sensitive areas. Now that the park has achieved official status and protection, the local people will have the opportunity to protect, preserve, and profit from this beautiful landscape.
June 6, 2014