Spotlight on the Clean and Green Cities Program

According to UN-Habitat, the United Nations program dedicated to building a better urban future, clean, green, and beautiful public spaces are one of the most important elements of a livable city. High-quality public spaces that are not profit-based and that are accessible to all bring many benefits to a city: they enhance community cohesion, promote health and well-being, and allow cities to support a higher population density.

It was in order to bring these benefits to some of Afghanistan’s cities, many of which are still recovering from the effects of decades of conflict and population displacement, that UN-Habitat helped launch the Clean and Green Cities (CGC) program in March of 2017. Read on to learn more about the CGC program and about UN-Habitat.

 

What is the Clean and Green Cities program?

The CGC program is an urban initiative that is working to implement public space upgrades and improve certain municipal services in a dozen cities around Afghanistan, including Kabul. Over the last few decades, conflict, unregulated development, rapid population growth, and aging infrastructure and services have seriously compromised the livability of many of Afghanistan’s urban centers.

The CGC program aims to address this on a local scale by providing support for key “cleaning and greening” activities. These activities are carried out by local residents in cooperation with each city’s municipal government and nahias (a nahia is a municipal administrative sub-district: essentially, a neighborhood).

In addition to the refreshment and revitalization of public spaces, job creation and economic stimulus are important components of the CGC program. Through the funding it receives from a number of international supporters, including the EU, the CGC program creates jobs for more than 13,500 people. The program has a particular focus on making the jobs accessible to vulnerable populations, including returnees and the urban poor. UN-Habitat supports these efforts through technical assistance and expertise.

 

What CGC initiatives have taken place so far?

In Kabul, five major categories of cleaning and beautification activities have been identified by the community and the municipal government. These are: collecting solid waste from households, planting trees, sweeping streets, painting curbs, and cleaning roadside ditches. Under the umbrella of the CGC program, these activities will be carried out regularly, and in accordance with set standards of performance, through coordinated planning efforts from the municipality of Kabul and specially created nahia development committees.

More recently, in February 2018, the mayor of Kabul announced that seven public parks in the city would also be upgraded as part of the CGC program. This particular activity was inspired by the New Urban Agenda, the UN’s action blueprint for sustainable urban development that emphasizes the importance of safe, inclusive, and accessible green public spaces.

To help its parks conform to this vision, the municipality of Kabul has outlined a program of walkway upgrades within and around the park; grass and tree planting; well digging and implementation of an irrigation distribution system; electrical connection; upgrades to the boundary wall and installation of entrance gates; and the installation of benches throughout the park.

 

What is UN-Habitat?

An essential program of the United Nations, UN-Habitat works toward a better urban future. It aims to promote and develop human settlements that are socially and environmentally sustainable and to achieve adequate shelter for all global citizens. UN-Habitat has been working to fulfil this vision ever since it was mandated by the UN General Assembly in 1978.

Even at that time, urbanization issues relating to the uncontrolled growth of cities were already apparent. Since then, cities around the world have continued to experience unprecedented change. Today, the challenges—demographic, environmental, economic, social, and spatial—that the world’s urban areas are now facing are extreme. In view of the projection that 60 percent of the global population will be living in cities by the year 2030, it is clear that UN-Habitat’s work is more vital than ever before.

To guide its vision for well-planned, well-governed, and efficient cities and human settlements that offer all their residents adequate housing, infrastructure, employment opportunities, and basic services, UN-Habitat works with a medium-term strategy approach. Every six years, the organization develops a new strategic plan that provides continuity with the previous plan while facilitating an adaptable and effective response to emerging urban trends and offering opportunities for the incorporation of lessons learned from previous plans.

At present, UN-Habitat is working with a strategic plan that covers the years from 2014 to 2019. The seven focus areas of this plan are: urban legislation, land, and governance; urban planning and design; urban economy; the provision of basic services in urban areas; housing and slum upgrading; risk reduction and rehabilitation in urban areas; and research and capacity development. The first four areas are of particular importance in this iteration of the strategic plan, as they have been neglected in previous years in favor of other, higher-priority objectives.

How Is the Wildlife Conservation Society Helping Afghanistan?

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is a US-based organization that works to protect wild places, and the species that inhabit them, all around the world. The WCS has been spearheading environmental preservation and sustainable resource management efforts in Afghanistan since 2004.

Afghanistan’s environment has suffered greatly from decades of conflict. Additionally, many of its fragile ecosystems are under threat due to factors like over-hunting, deforestation, over-grazing, water diversion, and land encroachment. Through its work in Afghanistan, WCS aims both to preserve the country’s unique biological diversity, and to improve, through sustainable management practices, the natural resource base that 80 percent of Afghans currently depend on for their economic survival.

To date, WCS has launched and implemented conservation initiatives across a broad range of environmental categories, including:

 

Ecological Research

When WCS began working in Afghanistan, understanding the condition of the country’s natural resources was a top priority. To help the Government of Afghanistan develop a critically-needed baseline on which to build sustainable resource management decisions, WCS conducted a number of important ecological research surveys that helped prioritize areas for further protection.

Some of the key results and insights achieved by this work included the identification of the range, population, and threats to Afghanistan’s ungulates, such as the majestic Marco Polo sheep; the identification of several new species of birds and their habitat; the implementation of Afghanistan’s first-ever satellite tagging program for snow leopards; and extensive surveys of wildlife and rangeland in Bamyan province.

 

ibex

 

Community Natural Resource Governance

When local and national-level government agencies work together with local communities to develop governance and management systems for natural resources, everyone benefits. Communities feel empowered to take ownership of the conservation process, and protection and preservation efforts are more robust and effective because of increased buy-in from the very people most affected.

To date, the community natural resource governance initiatives that WCS has helped implement in Afghanistan are closely connected to the country’s two national parks. These initiatives include the democratically-elected Band-e-Amir Protected Area Committee, the Band-e-Amir Community Council, and the Wakhan Pamir Association.

 

Wildlife-Livestock Health

WCS works in some of the most remote areas in Afghanistan, where both people and animals have limited access to health care. Thus, an important part of WCS’ efforts to conserve wildlife populations involves addressing the health of livestock and local herders in order to diminish the risk of disease introduction and communication between domestic and wild animals, and between animals and humans.

Some of the steps that WCS veterinary teams have taken in this direction include performing the first surveys for avian influenza (in both wild birds and poultry) in a number of northern Afghan provinces, identifying new livestock pathogens, developing educational material in local languages to educate farmers and herders on wildlife diseases, and conducting comprehensive livestock vaccination campaigns.

 

Wildlife Trafficking

WCS has played an instrumental role in identifying, and working to combat, the extent to which the international community is driving wildlife trafficking through demand for wildlife furs and for exotic species as pets. Surveys conducted by WCS have helped identify threats to protected wildlife. Additionally, outreach to key stakeholders and the development of more effective legislation is intended to reduce the trade in wildlife and improve the enforcement of infractions.

 

Asiatic black bear

 

Climate Change

In Afghanistan’s already harsh mountain landscapes, climate change is expected to pose unique challenges to humans and wildlife alike. To help the country assess the potential impacts of climate change and prepare to mitigate its effects, WCS has been working on studies of long-term changes in air temperature. This is an important proxy to understand how animal survival is affected by climate. It is also collecting data monitoring the retreat of glaciers in the Wakhan area in order to provide information on the expected impact of climate change on the important ice water stores of the Amu Darya River.

 

Community Livelihoods

In remote regions of Afghanistan, human communities and endangered wildlife often share the same habitat and depend on the same resources for survival. To help ensure a sustainable future for people and animals alike, and to reduce pressure on already overused local resources, WCS has been working with local communities to find new ways of increasing incomes and diversifying livelihoods that do not come at the expense of wildlife and critical natural habitat.

Of these efforts, ecotourism is one of the biggest. Now that Afghanistan has two national parks, WCS and its partners are working to make the most of sustainable tourism in these areas and expand the benefits that the increased numbers of tourists can bring.

 

Legislation and Policy

One of WCS’ most important goals in Afghanistan is to help the government develop, implement, and enforce environmental protection legislation. To date, the organization has worked with government agencies and many national and international partners to establish new laws that protect wildlife and habitat, to develop a comprehensive plan for protected areas, to build knowledge of environmental laws and best practices among Afghan policy-makers, and to promote collaborative, cross-border conservation efforts.

The Bayat Foundation Announces Completion of the Bayat Institute of Technology at the American University of Afghanistan

Architecturally Arresting 32,000 Square Foot Facility Will Serve as Region’s Most Advanced Center For Scientific and Technological Research, Education and Scholarship

 

Kabul, Afghanistan—March 15, 2018—The Bayat Foundation(bayatfoundation.org), Afghanistan’s largest, private philanthropic Health, Education and Social Development organization, announced today that the Foundation has completed the construction of The Bayat Institute of Technology (BIT), a new, 32,000 square foot Science and Technology Teaching and Research Center, located at The American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).

The Bayat Institute of Technology is located at the heart of AUAF’s flagship campus in Kabul City. The mission of The Bayat Institute of Technology is to enable members of the AUAF community to undertake rigorous teaching and research which increases Afghanistan’s collective engineering, scientific and technical knowledge, while also providing strong support for Afghan led scientific and technological innovation and entrepreneurship.

In addition to underwriting the construction of The Bayat Institute of Technology, The Bayat Foundation has established a ten-year, $1,000,000 endowment fund which will be used to defray the building’s operational costs.

When The Bayat Institute of Technology officially opens to the AUAF community in Spring 2018, AUAF’s students and faculty will have access to BIT’s seven new laboratories, including three Media and Technology Labs, an IT Lab as well as new Chemistry, Physics and Biology Laboratories. AUAF students will learn about the latest developments in Science and Technology within BIT’s six new lecture halls. In addition to these state of the art teaching and research facilities, The Bayat Institute of Technology will provide AUAF Faculty and Students with additional services and amenities, including:

  • Two Prayer Halls
  • 22 New Faculty Offices
  • Lecture Hall
  • Library
  • A Rooftop Leisure Center
  • Atrium Social Center

The Bayat Institute of Technology’s advanced facilities are contained within the newest and most architecturally distinguished academic building within the region. With its gleaming alabaster colored exterior and its interiors bathed in natural light cascading through the buildings numerous windows, The Bayat Institute of Technology was developed using a portfolio of forward-leaning methods of sustainable design and construction. The building’s centralized Atrium enables the natural circulation of air, and the building’s illumination is provided with a combination of LED lighting and natural light. Repurposed marble, together with gypsum, aluminum and porcelain were incorporated within the building’s earthquake resistant structure.

 

“The Bayat Institute of Technology at AUAF is among the most architecturally distinguished and structurally sound academic buildings developed by—and built by—Afghans,” said Mr. Hamid Rahin, the Vice President of Infrastructure for The Bayat Group. “The building is a remarkable example of Afghan skill, craftsmanship and determination.”

 

 

“The Bayat Institute of Technology at The American University of Afghanistan is a powerful example of the partnership between The Bayat Foundation and AUAF—a partnership that is providing AUAF’s students with an academically rigorous and valuable scientific and technical education,” said Dr. Ehsanollah Bayat, the Co-Founder and Chairman of The Bayat Foundation.

 

 

“And it is together, in the spirit of enduring and unbreakable partnership, that The Bayat Foundation and AUAF will help educate a new generation of Afghan leaders,” Dr. Bayat said. “We are committed to provide opportunities for learning to all Afghans living everywhere throughout our nation.”