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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Interstate water resource risk management: towards a sustainable future for the Pyanj River basin

PI: Rano Eshankulova (, Institute of Water Problems, Hydropower, and Ecology, Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan
U.S. Partner: Mark Williams, University of Colorado Boulder
Project Dates: December 2016 - June 2020

Project Overview:

Assuming a temperature increase of 2°C until 2050 and no change in precipitation, the ice reserves in the Pyanj River Basin, the catchments to be studied in this project, will decline at an accelerated rate. Considering the dense concentration of glaciers in the Pyanj River Basins and its inflows, it should be expected that the warmer climate and melting of glaciers would lead to new mud streams. Therefore, in order to address the expected climate-related hazards, it is necessary to improve our science-based understanding of the nature and magnitude of physical and biophysical impacts of climate change under different scenarios. It will be important to gain a better understanding several important climate change indicators, as well as key aspects of vulnerability impacts on development and potential adaptation measures. Developing an evidence-based approach to solving these problems requires the creation of extensive and rich hydrometeorological database on the selected river basin. Ensuring sustainable water and glacier management, it is also important to have reliable information on present and future water-snow-glacier scenarios and their evolution in relation to global change, human activities, and climate evolution affecting the hydrological and melting regime of glaciers of the Pyanj river basin. This team of researchers will focus on creating a database on the results of direct measurements and observations in order to predict more accurately the development processes against the backdrop of global climate change.

USAID has previously provided support to the Tajik weather and water-forecasting agency so that they can better predict the amount of water available for irrigation each year, which enables water management authorities to release the optimum amount of water and reserve the rest for generating electricity. The purpose, objectives, and expected results of this project align with those previous efforts and should contribute to sustainable development in the region. The collection of reliable data about the state of glaciers in the Pyanj River Basin should help in developing methods and approaches for the prevention and mitigation of extreme hydrological situations. According to the Asian Development Bank, there were 290 such water-related emergencies over the past 20 years in the Pyanj Basin. The results from the isotope hydrology study of the rivers of the Pyanj Basin to be obtained as part of this project can make an essential contribution to the creation of more broadly applicable models. Such models are essential to describe processes in the cryosphere, the hydrosphere of mountain regions, water flow dynamics, and ways of protecting and rationally using water resources. The results of the project should be of considerable interest to downstream countries along the Amu Darya River, such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, because since they should help predict more accurately the dynamics of water flow changes in the Pyanj River, one of the main tributaries of the Amu Darya rivers. To help disseminate the information gained in the project, the researchers will compile information sheets on the monitoring of emergencies in the Pyanj Basin and distribute them to the local population.

Final Project Summary:

During the project, the team collected meteorological data from the meteorological stations of Nizhniy Pyanj, Ishkoshim, Khorog, Dzavshangoz and Darvaz on the Pyanj River Basin for the period 1950-2000. The trend of temperature and precipitation change over the period 1950-2000 in the eastern, western, southern and central parts of the Pamir-upstream of the Pyanj River were defined. The systematization of archival data on the hydrological characteristics of the tributaries of the Pyanj River and the glaciers of the Pyanj River Basin was begun and continues.

The meteorological data from meteorological stations of Parkhar (362 m a.s.l.), Khorog (2,075 m a.s.l.), Fedchenko Glacier (4,169 m a.s.l.) and Murgab (3,576 m a.s.l.) of four climatic zones of the Pyanj River basin were collected. According to the data from meteorological stations, the change trends of temperature and precipitation for the period 1934-2014 was established. The patterns of change in the trend of atmospheric precipitation were studied and the orography influence of the terrain on the amount of precipitation was studied.

A series of expeditions were organized to the Pamir Mountain upstream of the Pyanj River to monitor weather conditions, snow cover in the Pamir climatic zones, study the hydrological characteristics of the Pyanj River tributaries, and take water samples from the rivers for chemical and isotopic analysis. A database was created on the snow depth cover at meteorological stations Khumrogi, Rushan, Khorog, Irkht, Bulunkul, and Shaimak on the Pyanj River Basin. The distribution of atmospheric precipitation and snow cover on the climatic zones of the Pyanj River catchment was carried out according to the data of stations located in each of the climatic zones.

During the reporting period, samples of snow cover, surface and groundwater in the Pyanj river basin were collected for isotope analysis and more than 85 samples were sent to the University of Colorado. The results of isotope analyses are now available and their interpretation continues.

During the project, major flooding was recorded in the downstream of the Pyanj River with large economic losses. In order to study the morphometric characteristics and condition of the banks of the Pyanj River several expedition were organized to the affected areas A series of works was carried out to compare the hydrological characteristics of the Pyanj River and its tributaries to the upstream of the river with the trend of changes in precipitation and temperature in order to establish the patterns of occurrence of flooding.

Water samples were taken from four hydrological stations in the lower reaches of rivers to study the phenomena of changes in the chemical and isotopic composition of the river before and after the flood and a full GIS map of the Pyanj River Basin was compiled. The formation of glacial lakes due to a reduction in the area of glaciation in the Gunt and Vanch river basins was observed. To take into account the influence of climate change on the hydrological characteristics of the Pyanj River and its tributaries, a comparative analysis of data from hydrological stations located in different climatic zones of the river basin was carried out.

The main sources of the tributaries of the Pyanj River was identified. Samples wer taken for chemical and isotopic analyzes from the upper and lower reaches of the Pyanj River, and the influence of climatic factors on changes in the chemical and isotopic composition of water was determined by comparison. Work continues on the synthesis of the research materials and the preparation of a draft version of the book is in the works.

During the project implementation period, trainings and courses for students of the Tajik National University and the Tajik Technical University were widely conducted. The program of trainings and courses covered mainly the methodology of scientific research and applied work in high-altitude conditions on monitoring and studying the meteorological conditions of river basins and hydrological characteristics of water arteries. Widely reported methods of collection, systematization and processing of data and the prediction of development scenarios for a promising future. Students were selected to perform certain sections of the project's tasks and participated in regional competitions on climate change and its impact on ecosystem components with the results obtained.

The project team worked closely with government and non-governmental organizations to exchange information and disseminate the project results. The team participated in seminars and courses and presented the results of the project. In addition, the results of the project were widely presented at more than nine International, regional, and national conferences and symposiums.During the expeditions, meetings were organized with employees of environmental organizations, environmental activists and the local population on the ground. At these meetings, they talked about the essence of the research and its importance and the important mission of solving current problems in the Republic.

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