Dr. Daud Saba

Environmental Impacts of the CentGas Pipeline in Afghanistan


By Dr. Daud Saba

On January 5th, 1998, the centGas Consortium was formed to extend a 1271-km pipeline from Daulatabad gasfields of Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan. No daubt, economically this project will bring some benifits to the people of Afghanistan. But the establishment of such a gigantic project in this countrywill have many environmental consequences which shoud be addressed before the implementation of the proposed project.

The people of Afghanistan paid a big price to the environmental and social impacts of the red armies pipelines during 80's. Yet, after many years, the damages caused by this pipeline on agricutural lands, water system and other life sustaining elements of the environment are not recovered.

The black scars of oil spills, fires and fighting scenes are still visible on the landscape of Afghanistan. However, from the viewpoint of volume and socio-political situation, the above pipeline could not be compared tothe CentGas commercial pipeline project. Eventually the latter project could have more serious impacts on the environment.

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) sudy, prior to the construction of such projects,is emphasized in the intertational norm.

Three stages of the project implementation, viz. the construction period, the exploitation period and the abandonment stage were discussed. It is argued that due to the short period of the construction activities, this stage will not have serious environmental consequences to be worried about. The major environmental and social impacts of this project could arise during the exploitation and abandonment stages.

It is speculated that the folloing environmental factors would be greatly affected by the extension of this pipeline in the territory of Afghanistan: the populatoion and habitat expansion, the volume of the social services in the region, the productivity of farmlands, pastures and other agricultural activities in the surrounding areas of the pipeline route, soil and vegetation covers, water resources and wildlife conservation. many other social and environmental concerns related to these factors are discussed. Previous experiences of Afghanistan in such multi-dimentional projects are shortly reviewed.

It is argued that if all environmental issues concerning the implementation of the project are not addressed in time, they will have great consequences to the future of Afghanistan's people an the project as well. Negligence of these issues in the agreements or contracts could be considered as clear indication of taking the right of the people of Afghanistan, who are not able to expres themselves at this time. It is proposed that an EIA report should be prepared before any agreement is signed. The ignorance of this norm by involved parties to date is criticized. It is voiced that any contract, not clearly addressing the environmental consequences of this project would be of no validity, nationally and internationally, and could be declared nil by the legal establishments of the future.

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