Afghanistan is regularly in the news as a result of the ongoing conflict in the region. It is also a major beneficiary of development aid, as countries and international organisations aim to help redevelopment and reduce poverty in the region after years of oppression and conflict. Geologists are playing a significant role in this development, and have the potential to bring real hope and development to the people of that nation. Both the British Geological Survey (BGS) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have been involved in supporting development in Afghanistan, working with their respective national aid agencies (DFID, USAID respectively).
The BGS has supported the development of the Afghan Geological Survey with a focus on its mineral resources. Afghanistan has a rich and diverse mineral potential - ranging from energy resources to base metals, precious metals and stones. Many of these mineral resources are undeveloped, meaning they offer a good revenue to support the development of the country. The BGS has been working to strengthen the Afghan Geological Survey, empowering them to identify these resources and plan the sustainable exploitation of their own natural resources. The work of the BGS has included improving their staff's english speaking and computer literacy, helping them develop laboratories and databases, and training staff in the skills of geological analysis.
The USGS has undertaken a range of projects, including building institutional capacity, developing energy and mineral resources, developing water resources, and examining geohazards in the region. Their work on geohazards has included analysing the seismicity of the region, and producing seismic hazard maps for Afghanistan. These are fundamental to ensuring construction and redevelopment is done to an adequate standard - ensuring the risk of serious structural failure is minimised. There is a significant risk of medium to large earthquakes in the east of Afghanistan. From 1980-2008, the cost of earthquake (and related disasters) damage was around 144million dollars, and the number of deaths was in the region of 13,500 (USGS). As urbanisation grows and development occurs, this must be done in a way in which the seismic risk is recognised and incorporated into design. If this is not the case then the figures stated earlier could be significantly greater.
Geologists from both of these organisations have played a significant role in the development of Afghanistan, and empowerment of geologists in this country. It is likely that both Afghan national geologists and international geologists will play a major role in the continual development of this nation.