Pech and Waygal valleys

Year of compilation: 1994

Site description
Relatively steep-sided valleys, typical of Nuristan and the western Himalayas in general; they are tributaries of the Kunar river in eastern Afghanistan, north of Jalalabad, at c.1,100-3,000 m. The Kunar in turn flows into the Kabul river near Jalalabad. Nuristan is a mountainous region, with granitic peaks of up to 6,300 m. The lower slopes of the valleys contain Quercus forest up to c.2,000 m, being replaced by coniferous forest up to c.3,000 m, above which is a narrow Juniperus zone. The highest, alpine zone receives little rain and is relatively barren. The whole region has been somewhat isolated until relatively recently, and the Nuristanis have maintained their distinct cultural heritage to a certain extent. The architecture in many villages is also unique.

Key biodiversity
A typical and representative west Himalayan breeding avifauna, with at least 53 breeding species. See box for key species; other notable breeding species (some with very restricted world ranges) include Lophophorus impejanus, Pucrasia macrolopha, Phylloscopus subviridis, P. tytleri, Aegithalos leucogenys and Sitta cashmirensis. Phylloscopus trochiloides nitidus is a passage migrant.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: the Nuristan region contains important populations of Ursus arctos (rare), Selenarctos thibetanus (V), Uncia uncia (E), Panthera pardus (rare), Lynx lynx (rare), Canis lupus (V), Capra falconeri (E) and Macacca mulatta (rare); Moschus sifanicus (E) is thought to be extinct. Other notable species include Prionailurus bengalensis, Capra ibex sibericus, Petaurista petaurista and Hylopetes fimbriatus.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
No formal conservation measures have been taken. Critical problems are the uncontrolled deforestation and widespread hunting (particularly of the two pheasant species, Lophophorus impejanus and Pucrasia macrolopha, which must be severely depleted). The alpine meadows have been heavily overgrazed. Trekking tourism may develop in the future, given the area's great potential. In 1977 the headwaters of the Pech and Waygal valleys and adjacent areas of upland woodland were proposed as a National Park.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Pech and Waygal valleys. Downloaded from on 23/10/2021.