"UNEP assessments are not just descriptions of a particular situation but they lead to concrete action", said the team chairman Pekka Haavisto in a briefing held in Helsinki. The most recent environmental assessment "Afghanistan - Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment", published in January 2003, gives totally new information on the natural resources and environmental degradation in Afghanistan.
Haavisto pointed out that the assessment looks back over a 30-year period. The most serious issue in Afghanistan is the long-term environmental degradation caused, in part, by a complete collapse of local and national forms of governance. Water is the key to health and well-being of Afghanistan's people, and essential to maintain agricultural productivity. However, both surface and groundwater resources have been seriously affected by the drought, as well as by systematic destruction of irrigation system.
The forests and woodlands of Afghanistan supply important sources of fuel wood and construction materials. However, illegal harvesting is depleting forests and woodland resources, and widespread grazing is preventing regeneration. UNEP's satellite analyses revealed that conifer forests in North-Eastern Afghanistan have been reduced by an average of 50 per cent since 1978.
In September 2002, a month-long UNEP mission comprising 20 Afghan and international scientists and experts visited urban cities and rural locations.
Another of UNEP's projects concerning the environmental assessment of the occupied Palestinian territories has also been concluded. The UNEP has persuaded both Israelis and Palestinians to work together on resolving environmental problems in the occupied territories. The environment will be part of a peace package, and this could be a start towards a peace policy.