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Is It Time To Include Afghanistan In Global Climate Talks?

  • Roza Otunbaeva, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, underscores that the country has been left out of global climate talks since the 2021 Taliban takeover, despite its vulnerability to climate-related threats.
  • Otunbaeva points out that the Taliban's Amu Darya River water project, aimed at aiding Afghanistan's farming sector, could have detrimental effects on water supplies in neighboring Central Asian states.
  • Afghanistan faces frequent natural disasters, exacerbated by years of war, environmental degradation, and climate change, putting its citizens at high risk.

A top UN official expressed concerns that Afghanistan has been excluded from global discussions on climate change, despite being among the top 10 countries worldwide facing climate-related issues.

Afghanistan has been excluded from the UN’s global climate summit talks since the Taliban takeover in 2021.

Roza Otunbaeva, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), highlighted the impact of climate change and drought conditions on the poverty level of the country and pointed to the importance of Taliban-driven initiatives, such as the Amu Darya River water project.

The comments came in an interview published on August 29 by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service.

One issue of concern, Otunbaeva said, is the massive canal project begun by the Taliban to divert water from a key river to help the farming sector of northern Afghanistan. But some Central Asian nations worry over how the project could reduce water supply to their regions.

"[Taliban rulers] are digging a hundred kilometers of the channel aiming to deliver water from Amu Darya River. They are going to farm new places and want to have independence on food security,” she noted.

“However, this is a very dangerous point for our neighborhood (Central Asian countries) because of [resulting] water issues," said Otunbaeva, who served as the interim president of Kyrgyzstan in 2010-11.

The Taliban administration has prioritized the Qosh-Tepe canal project, begun in early 2022, with the aim of allocating Amu Darya waters among the Central Asian states -- Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan -- a plan that originated during the Soviet era.

In November, independent Afghan climate activist Abdulhadi Achakzai attended as the only representative of his nation at the UN Conference of Parties (COP27) in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

The 2021 Global Climate Risk Index positioned Afghanistan as the sixth most vulnerable country to climate-related threats.

Afghanistan faces frequent natural disasters that are endangering life, livelihoods, homes, and infrastructure.

Hundreds of Afghans die every year in torrential rains, landslides, and floods, particularly in rural areas where poorly built homes are often at risk of collapse.

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The UN has said that decades of war, environmental degradation, and climate change have made a growing number of Afghans vulnerable to natural disasters.

By RFE/RL

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