Mustafa Zahir is the grandson of Afghanistan’s last king, Mohammad Zahir. Mustafa Zahir was born in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan in 1964. Zahir has been a strong advocate for change and sustainability, creating unity in his country through people’s common interest. The most powerful interest the people of Afghanistan have right now is the rebuilding of their country – starting from zero and building from there, all as a direct result from the devastation of the Afghanistan war.
Since 2005, Mustafa Zahir has been the director- general of Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA). NEPA serves as Afghanistan’s environmental policy-making and regulatory institution.
On April 22, 2010, Mustafa Zahir received the Champions of the Earth Award by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). As a visionary leader, Mustafa won in the Inspiration and Action category. UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “Mustafa Zahir won because Prince Zahir has transformed environmental policy and laid the foundation for sustainability in one of the most challenging countries on the planet at this moment in history. He has balanced the day-to-day realities of Afghanistan with a determination that his country will have clean air and healthy water – backed by laws – upon which a sustainable and peaceful society can be built.”
In his earlier days, young Prince Mostapha Zaher’s first encounter with killing was with that of a swift bird, that swooped into the palace grounds. He shot the bird for sport with his air rifle. When he brought home his prize, Afghanistan’s King Mohammed Zahir Shah was not impressed. Zahir said, “My grandfather scolded me, and said that it is one thing to hunt like a man, it is another to hunt like a coward. Swift birds are precious creatures of the air, and if you can’t eat them, you don’t hunt them.” The message stuck, and while Zaher, now 46, continued to hunt, it was always with his grandfather’s lessons in conservation in mind.
Since then Zaher has worked to rewrite the nation’s environmental laws, enshrining in the constitution an act that declares it the responsibility of every Afghan citizen to “protect the environment, conserve the environment and to hand it over to the next generation in the most pristine condition possible.” There are many ways that everyone can contribute and play their part. Zaher says, “I never use plastic bags. Instead, I have little bags made out of jute material, like we had in the old days. Using the traditional jute bags not only helps the environment, but it creates jobs for Afghans who sew the bags.”
The Ministry of Mines and Industries officials for Afghanistan, in August of 2010, declared a large deposit of oil with a capacity of 2 billion barrels, discovered in northern Afghanistan. According to the Minster of Mines and Industries Wahidullah Shahrani, there are two important geological plays of significance in this region.
As well, the reconstruction of Shebirghan gas reservoir equates to $400 million spent in development costs, and a new gas pipeline from Shebirghan to Balkh is on the way. Significant gas finds reveal that 440 billion cubic meter of gas and 219 million tonnes of oil is deposited in the “Afghan Tajik” area and the “Amu River” in northern Afghanistan.
With a united people of Afghanistan and energy opportunities that correlate directly to sustainability, along with a strong commitment to the protection of the environment, it may not be such a bad thing at all, that Afghanistan is starting over from zero.
Rather than having to rebuild, revise, revamp and rewrite structures of development, they are free to create anew. This coupled with an environmental consciousness for sustainability and strong leadership makes Afghanistan an attractive place to do business. While many have shunned the region because of war, much of the development opportunity is misunderstood and misinformed. Many oil and gas players are succeeding in Afghanistan every day – like all regions, it’s a matter of doing your homework and building the business at hand.
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