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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.

Summary of Recent Activities:

During the reporting period, fieldwork was carried out in the Gunt and Vanch river basins in February and March 2019. The main purpose of the fieldwork was to study the contribution of groundwater to the formation of river flow. For this purpose, water sampling was carried out:

- From the river Gunt and Vanch in winter (February) and spring (March) periods;
- From groundwater sources of the river Gunt and Vanch shoreline in winter and spring.

Hydrological measurements of the water flow of the Gunt River before and after Lake Yashilkul were carried out. Comparison of the values of the water flow of the river Gunt before and after the lake found that the impact of the lake is negligible. The isotopic analyses of water samples from the Gunt river and groundwater sources have shown that a significant contribution of groundwater to the replenishment of the river is observed in winter during the reduction of glacial runoff. Processing and systematization of the hydrological characteristics of the river Gunt found that the hydrograph of the river is characterized by two maxima of water flow, corresponding to the beginning of June and the end of July/beginning of August months. Based on the results, the team found that the formation of runoff of the Grunt River is due to the melting of seasonal snow in June and the contribution of scattered glaciers in August.

In the next quarter, the team plans to meet with local residents and NGOs in Khorog, Vanch and Darvaz districts. They will hold two training seminars with the participation of young scientists and university students, conduct two expeditions in the Pyanj River downstream, and present at three international conferences.

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