Environmental laws and regulations are essential for minimizing pollution, and establishing standards for air, waste, and industrial emissions. Legal frameworks also help to ensure natural resources are managed and used in a sustainable manner that will support local livelihoods, generate employment and lead to inclusive economic growth.

Since 2003, UNEP’s has worked to advance a legal and policy framework in Afghanistan by providing technical assistance, drafting support, and facilitating public consultations with national and international stakeholders. This engagement has led to a number of important laws and policy documents including the 2007 Environment Law, which created a regulatory framework for the management of natural resources, the Forest Law, the Rangeland Law, Clean Air Regulations, Protected Area Regulations, and National Environmental Action Plan. UNEP has also advanced environmental impact assessment (EIA) regulations, a national EIA policy and trained staff for its implementation.

While significant progress has been made, further support is needed to develop community-based natural resource management legislation for forest, range land and watershed management. A functioning system of national parks and biodiversity conservation areas is also an urgent priority as Afghanistan’s fragile ecosystems and species continue to suffer extensive human impacts.

In addition to a rich biodiversity, Afghanistan is estimated to hold some one trillion dollars in mineral reserves. These reserves are attracting new investment in the form of large-scale resource extraction projects, mines, drilling, fracking, pipelines and a large number of new dams. As large-scale extraction and infrastructure programmes are set up, EIAs and strategic environmental assessments will be critical for ensuring operations are carried out in an efficient, responsible and sustainable manner.