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Afghanistan Gets First National Park

Afghanistan has outlined its first national park this week, thanks to help from the U.S. Wildlife Conservation Society. The park, called Band-e-Amir, boasts six deep blue lakes separated by dams of natural travertine rock. The lake gets its dazzling azure color from calcium carbonate deposits in the water. It lies in the country’s central Bamiyan province—an area currently free from conflict, sitting 2,900 meters above sea level in the Hindu Kush mountain range.

The park will help the troubled country claw back some of its natural resources which are severely depleted after 30 years of almost constant warfare.

What’s more, new environmental protection laws will help conserve animals such as ibex and a wild sheep called a urial that still live there. Much of the country is rural, with up to 80% of Afghans rely on the land for their livelihood, says Peter Zahler, assistant director of Asia programs at the Wildlife Conservation Society. Band-e-Amir was established as part of $10 million of funding over 4 years from the U.S. Agency for International Development for its Afghanistan Biodiversity Project.