In the middle of the U.S.'s National Park Week and on Earth Day, Afghanistan announced the creation of their first national park. Band-e-Amir, a region west of Kabul covered in lakes and natural travertine dams, may be the first of many protected areas in the country.
Pictures of the lakes make it hard to put a name to the water's hue—the color is more vibrant and deep than the sky rising over the surrounding mountains and it's feel is almost tropical. The travertine dams that hold back the water are impressive too, travertine being the rock used for most of Rome's Colosseum.
This region of the war-torn country hasn't seen many tourists since it was a popular travel spot from the 1950s to 1970s and it's been a tough road trying to achieve park status. Much of the wildlife in the area has been wiped out, including the snow leopard, but wild sheep, wolves, foxes, and the Afghan snow finch still call the area home.
According to Wildlife Conservation Society president Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, the park is a boost to Afghan nationalism: "At its core, Band-e-Amir is an Afghan initiative supported by the international community. It is a park created for Afghans, by Afghans, for the new Afghanistan."