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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Implications of climate change, land use, and adaptation interventions on water resources and agricultural production in the transboundary Amu Darya River Basin

PI: Zafar Gafurov (, International Water Management Institute
U.S. Partner: John Bolten, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Project Overview:

The transboundary Amu Darya and Syr Darya river basins draining to the Aral Sea in Central Asia witnessed widespread land use and land cover changes (LULCC) during 20th century as a result of political reforms of agrarian systems to enhance economic opportunities for a growing population. These developments produced drastic change in the hydrological regime of these two river basins, causing widespread ecosystem degradation (Shira Babow, 2012). The need to sustain competing water uses at the local, national, and transboundary levels, including on upstream hydropower generation and downstream irrigation requirements under climate change, make the current situation more contentious (FCG, 2012). Realizing the need to balance and sustain competing water uses, national governments in Central Asia and international agencies are supporting numerous mitigation and adaptation interventions to improve overall water use efficiency in basins draining to the Aral Sea. However, successful interventions must be based on comprehensive understanding of the interactions in agro-hydrological systems at multiple scales covering sufficiently long time periods, and they must account for forecasted climate change impacts. So far, there are no openly available models and tools with detailed descriptions of such spatio-temporal changes and interactions of agro-hydrologic systems in the Amu Darya River Basin that can used to inform evidence-based decision-making by national research organizations and donor agencies. Even if studies on these topics were undertaken in the past, their availability is restricted. This project proposes to promote a greater understanding of past land use and land cover changes in the Amu Darya Basin, expected changes in the future, and basin-scale climate change impacts and adaptation interventions for water resources, using openly available long-term Earth observation datasets and a semi-distributed hydrological model (SWAT) detailing the agro-hydro-climatological system. The tools and models will act as vital management instruments for national water agencies and multilateral activities to assist in planning future interventions at basin or local scales.

This proposal aligns with USAID’s Regional Development Cooperation Strategy (RCDS) for the Central Asian region (2015-2019), specifically with regard to Development Objective DO 2: “Enhanced regional cooperation on shared energy and water resources.” This project will assess water resource availability in the Amu Darya Basin, looking at past, present, and future land-use and climate-change scenarios at the basin scale, covering all the riparian countries. The project will provide comprehensive, unbiased water resources scenarios for the basin at multiple scales for the riparian countries, thus serving as a conduit to help resolve prevalent sources of conflicts and promote integrated water resources management and greater regional cooperation on water issues. One of the main outcomes of this project is to provide local organizations in riparian countries involved in watershed management and planning with openly available, readily updatable model tools and map projections that can be used for designing and implementing intervention measures.

Within the scope of this project, close partnership and collaboration will be established between the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Karakalpak branch office of the Scientific Research Institute of Irrigation and Water Problems–Uzbekistan, Balkh University (Afghanistan), and the Institute of Water Problems, Hydropower Engineering, and Ecology of the Academy of Sciences–Republic of Tajikistan. In association with the U.S. partner based at NASA, IWMI will actively pursue knowledge transfer avenues on use of the expected project outputs, such as land-use change projections, water availability under climate-change scenarios, and use of the SWAT model by a wide stakeholder network covering national, regional, and international organizations. Best practices and lesson learned from a similar project in the Lower Mekong Basin undertaken by the U.S. partner will be incorporated into this Amu Darya Basin project. This project provides a structured opportunity to boost the application and knowledge transfer of freely available remote sensing data sets and hydrological models to the riparian countries to design, test, and share improved water management methods. These state-of-the-art tools, models, and insights will be used to bridge the existing technical knowledge gap among partners in the Amu Darya Basin and foster an environment for identifying solutions to address competing uses and anticipated environmental risks and conflicts.

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