Scholars disagree over the division, number and definitions of Afghanistan'sregions. Louis Dupree's geographic paradigm is one of the most respected and isbased on the regional division of human geography and ecology. He dividesAfghanistan into eleven geographic zones. The first six--the WakhanCorridor-Pamir Knot, Badakhshan, Central Mountains, Eastern Mountains, NorthernMountains and Foothills, Southern Mountains and Foothills--are connected to theHindukush systems. The remaining five--Turkistan Plains, Herat-Farah Lowlands,Sistan Basin-Hilmand Valley, Western Stony Desert, and Southwestern SandyDesert--comprise deserts and plains "which surround the Mountains in thenorth, west and southwest." Medieval geographies speak of the remarkableprosperity of the Sistan which is now known principally for its deserts coveredwith moving sand dunes rising to a height of 20 meters. Some experts haveconcluded these may be the fastest moving sand dunes anywhere in the world.
The United Nations has defined eight regions for their assistance planning:Northeast--Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunduz, Baghlan; North--Samangan, Balkh, Saripul,Jawzjan; West--Faryab, Badghis, Herat, Farah; East-Central--Bamiyan, Ghor;Central--Kapisa, Parwan, Kabul, Logar, Wardak; East--Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman,Nangarhar; South--Paktya, Pakteka, Khost, Ghazni; Southwest--Zabul, Uruzgan,Kandahar, Hilmand, Nimroz. This reflects the creation since 1978 of three newprovinces--Saripul, Khost and Nuristan--bringing the 1996 total to thirty-two.
Construction of a circular road system to link these regions was assiduouslypromoted during the 1960s: with assistance from the United States south of theHindukush, the Soviet Union north of the Hindukush, and West Germany in PaktyaProvince. These roads connected major cities with the principal bordercrossings: from Herat to Iran and Turkmenistan in the west; from Kandahar toPakistan in the south; from Kabul through Jalalabad to Pakistan in the east;from Balkh to Uzbekistan in the north.
Other roads are unpaved, and the once-paved roads have been almost totallydestroyed. This is a major impediment to reconstruction since any improvements,particularly in the agriculture sector, are hampered by the lack of an efficientdelivery infrastructure. Rebuilding of the roads, however, is beyond thecapacity of any agency now involved in Afghanistan's rehabilitation. This is theone sector that will require massive inputs which can only be obtained by suchorganizations as the World Bank or the Asian Bank, both of which insist on peacebefore becoming involved.
The plate-tectonic activity in Afghanistan has contributed to the creation ofthe geologic riches of the country, but has also produced frequent earthquakes;around fifty are recorded each year. Although most are relatively mild, the mostsevere earthquake in recent history occurred on 29 July 1985. French scientistsrecorded a measurement of 7.3 on the Richter scale at its epicenter in theHindukush. Since then, according to the United States Geological Survey, therehave been ten earthquakes in Afghanistan which have registered above 6.0; themost severe, both registering at 6.4, occurred in January and July 1991.
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