05/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Afghanistan's First National Park Protects Deep Blue Lakes

A series of six deep blue lakes separated by natural dams made of the rich red rock travertine have been protected in the first national park established in Afghanistan. The lakes are under growing threat from pollution and other human-caused degradation to the fragile travertine dams, and several animal species have disappeared from the area in recent decades or are at risk. 1

Good news from Afghanistan this week: the country declared its first internationally recognized national park today, called Band-e-Amir, which includes a striking series of six deep blue lakes in one of the country's best-known natural areas. Historically, Band-e-Amir was a destination to visit in Afghanistan since the 1950s, but from 1979-2001, the war kept many tourists away. Thousands of Afghan tourists and religious pilgrims now visit the area each year, and many other travellers are drawn to the beauty of the travertine dam network that separates the lakes. 2

Band-e-Amir is visited by thousands of Afghans and pilgrims, though foreign tourism stalled with the increase in violence since 1979. "The park will draw people from Herat to Kabul to Jalalabad... to be inspired by the great beauty of Afghanistan's first national park, Band-e-Amir," said Mostapha Zaher, Nepa's director-general. 3
  1. Afghanistan's First National Park Protects Deep Blue Lakes (Live Science)
  2. Afghanistan Establishes First National Park (GreenOptions)
  3. Afghanistan Creates Its First National Park (BBC)