Bande Amir

Year of compilation: 1994

Site description
A string of deep lakes set in a sheer, steep-sided valley in the Hindu Kush range, 60 km west of Bamyan town; the lakes are situated at c.2,900 m but the valley rises to a high mountain escarpment at c.3,800 m. The series of lakes rises in altitude from west to east, with natural limestone dams forming barriers between them. The boundary of the national park encompasses the entire watershed. The climate is strongly continental and extremely severe, the lakes freezing over in winter. The lakes are mostly too deep and steep-sided for waterfowl, and the surrounding cliffs and escarpment are very barren, but the valley bottom west of the lakes is well vegetated. The small shallow lower lake (Gholaman) has fringing beds of Phragmites and lies in a grazed meadow-like area. The extensive limestone dam between the two largest lakes (Haibat and Zulfiqar) is covered in Salix bushes. To the south is rolling, semi-desert plateau with patches of damp, snow-melt meadow. Large numbers of nomads arrive in spring to graze their flocks in the valley west of the lakes (the only area supporting sufficient vegetation for grazing, where there are also some crops). In the 1970s several thousand tourists per year visited the site which is scenically very beautiful and a natural extension to a visit to the nearby Bamyan valley.

Key biodiversity
Other breeding species include Falco jugger (possibly), Falco pelegrinoides, Tetraogallus himalayensis, Bubo bubo, Calandrella acutirostris, Motacilla citreola, Montifringilla nivalis, Carpodacus synoicus (possibly), Rhodopechys mongolica and Emberiza buchanani. An excellent migration study area, with 152 species recorded (mostly during August-September 1970); species include Phylloscopus griseolus and P. trochiloides nitidus.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Ovis orientalis (rare), Capra ibex (rare) and Canis lupus (V).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The area was declared Afghanistan's first National Park in 1973, but the declaration was not gazetted and still has no legal status. Current on-the-ground protection of the Park is presumed to be non-existent. No immediate threats to birdlife were apparent in the 1970s. Nomads and their flocks exert heavy pressure on the somewhat thin and fragile vegetation of the valley west of the lakes, through grazing and cutting of Phragmites and Salix for fuel. Future tourism (e.g. around former tourist areas at the extreme west end of Bande Haibat), if uncontrolled, may damage fragile mountain habitat and disturb sensitive breeding bird species. It has been suggested that the lakes be stocked with rainbow trout Salmo irideus; this would not affect the birds but might affect any native fish species present.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bande Amir. Downloaded from on 02/04/2020.