On the 22nd of April 2018, International Earth Day was celebrated by civil society organisations (SGP Grantees), Climate Action Network of South Asia (CANSA) and Environment & Natural Resources Monitoring Network (ENRMN)1 in collaboration with the National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) and Kabul Municipality (KM) at Kol-e-Hashmat Khan2 in Kabul.
CANSA Afghanistan and ENRMN consist of environmentally focused civil society organisations, NGOs, especially grantees of the Small Grant Programmes (SGP) of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which is led and implemented by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Afghanistan since 2012.
Afghanistan Young Greens (AYG), the appointed secretariat for ENRMN and one of the key players of Earth Day Celebrations in Kabul would like to express its thanks to SGP, GEF and UNDP for their financial support to grantees and for the Earth Day programme. Besides their financial assistance for the event, UNDP, SGP and GEF have effectively enabled CSOs and NGOs to address and advocate for the environmental issues in Afghanistan since 2012 and enabled an innovative celebration such as Earth Day, led by CSOs to take place there by helping CSOs in 2018 to help better write their success story of capacity development.
The theme for Earth Day in 2018 was, “End Plastic Pollution” that was also the basis of which the Earth Day was celebrated in Kol-e-Hashmat with the following specific objectives:
- To be an active contributor of the global movement to address the earth and environment issues;
- To raise awareness among the communities and stakeholders about the critical issues and challenges of environment, especially the risks of “Plastic Pollutions”;
- To bring the key government officials and role players together for sharing the concerns and challenges of environment for evidence-based advocacy for the implementation of law as well as policy improvement;
- Also, the reason for celebrating this occasion at KHK, was to raise the attention of the policy makers as well as the general public about the only wetland and center of eco-system existing in Kabul.
The celebration had three agenda points as following:
- Speeches of government officials and civil society activists;
- March by youths and community members
- And the campaign of plastic and waste collections by youths, civil society members and community members.
Achievements and the quick outcomes of the event:
The uniqueness and innovativeness of this event was its location, since for the first time an event of the Earth Day celebration was conducted in a Madrasa3/ Masjid. In 2017 AYG was granted financial support by GEF-SGP/UNDP to implement the “Community Based Wetland Conservation (CBWC)” at KHK, during the last one year AYG worked and sensitized the community members of KHK about the environmental issues, and now they have a positive perception of cooperating to address their social as well as environmental issues with policy and decision makers through peaceful manners.
More than 200 people including 20% women participants had participated in the event. The participants of the event included from different categories, i.e. government officials, and representatives of local CSOs, international organizations, university students, school teachers, community members and religious leaders who have been actively participated during all activities of the event, particularly, the religious leaders have very much cooperated and contributed in organization of the event.
The speakers of event were:
- Zia Urrahman Farooqi, a religious leader and representative of the Kol-e- Hashmat Khan Community Council/Shura4, who emphasized on protection of the Earth, restoration of eco-systems, especially KHK’s Wetland and the protection of the environment from wastes. He had sensitized the participants about the environmental protection and the responsibilities of human beings in regard to protection of the earth from the religious perspectives, and his recommendations and advises were highly valued by the participants.
- Gholam Mohammad Malikyar, technical deputy of NEPA, who focused on importance of the environment protection, general information about waste management and seeking the cooperation of community members regarding the environmental protection issues;
- Ahmad Behzad Ghiasi, Director of Sanitation Services of Kabul Municipality, spoke about the environmental protection issues, sanitation and cleaning services of KM, future plans of KM regarding the waste management at KHK area.
This event facilitated the community members an opportunity to face with government officials to advocate, address and share their social issues, wastes problems at KHK and other community challenges. Consequently, Mr. Ghiasi Director of Sanitation Services of Kabul Municipality committed that the KM will “install 200 waste bins and appointing sufficient waste collection trucks in the area during the next two months”. But, he also emphasized and requested the cooperation of community members and households in proper management of their wastes by taking waste separating actions and proper use of waste bins.
- Mr. Mohammad Ehsan Zia Chair of the Steering Committee of CANSA in Afghanistan and the representatives of CSOs in the event also talked on the occasion. The main focus of Mr. Zia’s speech was about the risks of plastic pollutions and its direct link and effect on the climate change issues.
He also shared the concerns and recommendations of CSOs with government officials which were:
- Although, the contribution of Afghanistan to polluting air and climate change is very less as compared to other countries, but climate change in Afghanistan has had very adverse effects on agriculture, livestock, water resources, the rapid destruction of grasslands, forests, destruction of wildlife. As a result of climate change in Afghanistan and the increased natural disasters such as droughts, floods, people of Afghanistan are suffering from the unemployment, poverty, immigrations and many more other social problems.
- CANSA and ENRMN composed of the green and environmental focused civil society organizations are part of the global movement for climate action which has been founded to fight against the adverse effects of climate change and environmental challenges. We aim to work in close cooperation with the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), relevant government bodies and other non-governmental actors in the areas of national capacity development, public awareness, effective policy development and international attention to the problem of climate change in Afghanistan.
- Each year on 22nd of April the International Earth Day is celebrated around the globe. Due to the fact that plastics, especially plastic bags are the largest source of pollution of the Earth, and in order to clean the planet from plastic pollutions around the world, the theme of the Earth Day for this year is “End Plastic Pollution”. According to the world’s most accurate sources of scientific resources, 500 billion plastic bags are used annually in the world, and now 3.5 million tons of plastic pollutions exist in seas as well as on the ground.
- In Afghanistan, plastic pollutions has become a critical health, economic and environmental problem due to the increased importing and extensive use of plastic bags and other plastic products all over the country; if the government does not limit the import and production of plastic bags, and also if the people of Afghanistan do not stop the disposal of their uncontrollable used plastic materials; we will face a very serious consequences of plastic pollutions in the country.
- Therefore, we call to everyone, let’s share hands and come together, first to clean our home, our environment, city, and our country from the plastic pollutions, and secondly let’s stop producing, importing and using plastic products as soon as possible, so that we can handover a clean earth without any kind of pollution and destruction to the future generations.
- We also call the government of Afghanistan to:
- limit the production and import of plastic bags;
- To start a national public awareness raising campaign about the negative effect of plastic pollution on health, agriculture, water resources and the issues of cclimate change in the Country;
- Strengthen the Afghanistan’s global partnership to benefit the international financial support for climate actions;
- To implement the environment law, adaptation of the environmental related strategies to prevent further environmental degradation and mitigate the effects of climate change;
- We also ask the Afghan people to stop using plastic bags as soon as possible and make their contribution in cleaning their homes, environment, cities and their country from the pollution of plastics and other wastes.
- Mr. M. Rafi Qarizada, director of the Natural Resources of MAIL also addressed the occasion, the main points of Mr. Qarizada’s speech were about the important of earth protection, environment protection, restoration of wetlands, risks of land degradation and restoration of eco-systems.
He emphasized on the risks of plastic pollution and its effect on human’s health. He also promised that the green belt project of Kabul city will reach to and cover the KHK area soon.
- At the end two representatives of the KHK’s community members have shared their concerns and issues related to school, wastes, and livelihood problems and low income of their families, economical challenges and environment and water pollutions of the area.
- The celebration of the Earth Day at a religious center (Madrasa) was highly welcomed by all participants, especially government officials. In addition, for the first time the community members had the opportunity to share their issues with government officials through a face to face meeting. The ceremonial part of the earth day celebration was closed by a closing remarks of a religious leader who repeatedly emphasized and requested the attention of the policy and decision makers on the KHK wetland and asked the community members to support the government in regard to the waste management challenges of the area.
- After the ceremonial session, the youths and the community members started the public awareness raising campaign by running the March and carrying the banners of different messages. The main message of the carrying banners was: The land and the earth is our shared home, let’s keep it clean”. The march was followed by the campaign of collecting plastics and wastes around the KHK’s wetland. Also, some civil society activists, particularly the coordinator of the ENRMN secretariat Mr. Yasin Setiz had interviewed with media representative to share the civil society concerns.
- The last but not the least, the main achievement of this event was the CSOs were able to approach and advocate the policy and decision makers and the general public by addressing the issues of environment, plastic pollutions, challenges of waste management, particularly the waste issues around the KHK area was the main focus of our evidence based advocacy, i.e. during we were collecting the wastes of the area, the community members were throwing their home produced wasted into the wetland in front of the eyes of the government officials.
- The main lessons we have learned from this event is that closely working with communities, especially involvement of the community members in organization of such events and campaigns will increase the effectiveness of the program and also involvement of them will decrease the risks, particularly the security concerns. We also learned that organization of such large events, should be planned in advance and enough time should be given for coordination and preparation.
Once again the leadership of AYG would like to express its thanks to UNDP, GEF and SGP for its financial support of the event and enabling civil society organizations to address the issues of climate change and to raise their joint voice for protection of the environment in Afghanistan.
We also thank all the civil society organizations, especially SGP grantees, CANSA members, ENRMN members, community members, government officials, especially the police and the youth groups, who actively participated in the event and made it successful.
The photo credits of this event goes to AYG and its professional photographer Mr. Abulfazl Warasta, who proved to be professional capturing extra-ordinary photos of the event and the KHK’s wetland.
More pictures from the event can be found on Facebook over here.
1 ENRMN is a network of all environmental and natural resources focused civil society organizations and individual activist which was founded in 2012. Currently this network is led by Afghanistan Young Greens (AYG).
2 Kol-e-Hashmat Khan is the 4th environmentally protected national park of Afghanistan.
3 Madrasa is a traditional and religious education center, where mostly the religious educations are taught by Mullahs and religious leaders. This event was conducted at Shino Zada Madrasa located at KHK.
4 The Kol-e-Hashmat Khan Community Council (KHKCC) was established in 2017 by AYG as part of its CBWC project funded by GEF-SGP/UNDP.