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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Impact of climate change on runoff from glaciers, snow and rainfall in the Pamir, and Hindu Kush mountains: A comparison of Amu Darya and Kabul River basins

PI: Fahimeh Salehi (, Green Social Research Organization
U.S. Partners: Ulrich Kamp, University of Montana, and Daniel Fagre, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Project Dates: December 2016 - December 2018

Project Overview:

5-183 PI Salehi at the Cryosphere conference
PI, Mrs Fahimeh Salehi, attending a conference on "State of the Cryosphere in Himalaya, gaps, challenges and opportunities” in Gangtok, India
The main objective of this project is to assess the role of glaciers, snow, and rainfall in the total stream flow of the Kabul and Amu Darya river basins. These rivers are transboundary waters, with Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan sharing the Amu Darya, and Afghanistan and Pakistan sharing the Kabul River Basin. Therefore, this project is intended to inform these countries in the face of climate change and economic growth. While the Amu Darya is believed to be heavily glacier-fed, the Kabul River Basin is believed to be heavily snow-fed as a result of climate change. This is an obvious challenge in the winter, as Afghanistan may face flooding, avalanches, flash floods, and the formation of glacier lakes and moraine lakes. In contrast, in summer the country experiences water scarcity. This PEER team will focus on these challenges and analyze the variation of river flows and climate change on sources of water in Afghanistan.  Through this project, Afghan and American researchers will work together to share knowledge, experience, and information. The Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water, Herat University, and the Herat engineering community will also be involved. 

Knowing that a primary goal of USAID/Afghanistan is to reduce extreme poverty, the researchers aim to promote economic growth by optimizing river flow management, helping to predict future climate-related disasters, and presenting alternatives for disaster mitigation and preparedness among the transboundary riparian countries. Information about transboundary water issues remains limited even at the university level, but this project will provide an opportunity for researchers, university faculty members, the engineering community, and policy makers to share knowledge and utilize the new technologies. This project can also contribute to improved government policies and programmatic decisions by creating and providing analytical research tools and policy recommendations. A broader impact of this project deals with hydro-power development, which is an intergovernmental issue with beneficiary countries on both rivers. Currently the hydro-power of both rivers remains undeveloped. If hydro-power plants are developed in the Amu Darya and Kabul River Basins, the water-energy nexus will become a reality and will require innovative public-private partnerships to bring mutual economic benefits. 

Overall Project Summary:

The project can be summarized in the following categories:
  1. Capacity building and Trainings:
This project was very helpful for junior researchers as their first step toward research. The results and impacts of two years of capacity building efforts are six articles that were generated by junior researchers in local languages. These articles were completed under the supervision of the PI and her team members. Additionally, the trainings which the PI and other members received from their US partners and other professionals helped the team to generate valuable maps and data. The results of these data were helpful for the decision makers with the most immediate impacts being the reformation of the institutional frame work and urgent action on adaptation and applying preventive measures to counter the impacts of climate change. In total, 100 men and 25 women received trainings out of this project.
  1. Overall Findings:
The research team found that glaciers are one of the most visible indicators of global change in Afghanistan. Climate controls glacier behavior and thus any change in climate is reflected in the glacier. Glaciers are melting due to rise of temperature and have led to both floods and drought in the country.
The project report addresses the potential future impacts of climate change on the KRB and Amu Darya River Basins and the region’s ability to meet current and future water demands. To address this issue, the team developed a series of loosely-integrated models that tracked the impacts of climate change on the river basins. The Amu Darya and Kabul River Basin receive the majority of their water from melting of glaciers, snow packs, and icecaps which are stored in the mountainous areas of Asia, namely the Hindu-Kush, Himalayan, and Pamir ranges. Due to the rise of temperatures and acceleration of snow melt, these rivers have experienced a significantly diminished amount of water discharge in recent years which has negatively impact the livelihoods of people who rely on them. The KRB and Amu Darya river basin will be faced with water resources shortages where water resources will not meet the demand of local economic development and the environment. Given that the gap between the water supply and demand is an outstanding issue, it is essential to take action to strengthen water sustainability while at the same time exploring measures of enhancing water replenishment.
Through this project, the GSRO Yearbook web platform was created and published in 2018. The next version will be published at the end of 2019 which will contain updated findings and all project generated data.
  1. Conferences and Seminars:
Through this PEER project, GSRO has organized one national level conference comprising of multiple levels of stakeholders and decision makers. The results were sets of policy notes which were developed by participants utilizing the findings of the team and official government data.
  1. Publications and Dissemination:
The results of this project were written into two papers: Afghanistan the obvious victim of climate change: A case study of Peshgor glacier lake outburst flood (GLOF) and The impact of climate change on runoff from glaciers, snow and rainfall in the Pamir, and Hindu Kush Mountains. The papers are awaiting publication at the time the project concluded. The team also presented their findings at a number of conferences and workshops.

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