RICHMOND, Va. — A cluster of six pristine blue lakes tucked into the mountains of Afghanistan’s remote center has tentatively become the war-torn country’s first national park, thanks largely to the work of Peter Smallwood, a University of Richmond biology professor.
Three decades of fighting had stalled previous efforts to protect the area from resource decimation. But at a small ceremony in Kabul on Wednesday, in conjunction with Earth Day celebrations, the head official for the National Environmental Protection Agency signed an executive order establishing the park, pending the expected approval from the country’s parliament.
The creation of the park — named Band-e-Amir for “Lake of the Ruler” — is a burst of good news in a country that has slowly slipped back into the grips of a rising insurgency and faces an increase in American troop presence to quell the resulting violence.
The project is more than a year in the making for Smallwood, who has been on leave from Richmond since January 2008 to serve as the country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society, a non-governmental organization that aims to preserve biodiversity worldwide.