Experts discussed a project on glacier melting in Central Asia in the context of climate change

Tashkent, Uzbekistan

The UNESCO Office in Tashkent, in cooperation with the UNESCO Cluster Office in Almaty and the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP), organized a technical meeting to discuss the GEF-UNDP-UNESCO project proposal “Strengthening the resilience of Central Asian countries by enabling regional cooperation to assess high altitude glacio-nival systems to develop integrated methods for sustainable development and adaptation to climate change”

The meeting was held on 8 November 2019 in Tashkent, in the office of the UNESCO Office in Tashkent.

Representatives of the national agencies of Central Asian countries supervising projects of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), national consultants on the project, international and regional experts, as well as representatives of UNESCO attended the event.

During the meeting, national consultants from 4 participating countries of the project: Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan presented national reports on snow glacier and runoff formation system, climate change and variability, particularly for two glacier systems (Pamir, Tien Shan) and the river basins that these glacier systems provide water resources to downstream countries.

The participants of the meeting discussed the project preparation process, the selection of pilot demonstration sites and the preparation of the Project Document required for consideration by the donor.

Based on the draft version of the project document presented at the meeting, the participants agreed on the Project Framework with indication of the main intermediate outputs required to achieve the expected outcomes.

"The technical meeting was the opportunity to discuss the project activities to be prepared and to be submitted to GEF,” said Mr. Anil Mishra, UNESCO-IHP Programme Specialist, one of the meeting moderators. “We had very constructive discussion based on the contributions made by national experts. The project will develop activities particularly related to understand climate change impact on snow glacier and water resources but also to train human capacity and to facilitate regional cooperation in monitoring changes in snow and glacier systems impacted by climate change," said Mr. Anil Mishra.

"We expect to finalize the project document by February 2020, and a validation workshop will be organized in the presence of participating countries and experts”, said Mr. Anil Mishra.

The donor approved the project proposal in early 2019. The first project meeting was held on 25 July 2019 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Because of the meeting, outlines and deadlines for the preparation of the full project document were presented.

"The project is designed for 4 years," says Ms. Kristine Tovmasyan, Programme Specialist in Natural Sciences at UNESCO Cluster Office in Almaty. "In Central Asia, glaciers are important long-term freshwater resources. Because they are very sensitive to rising temperatures, climate change is having a serious impact on glaciers," she said. According to the expert, it is very important to know and understand how climate change affects the melting of glaciers and, consequently, water resources and the vulnerability of the population. "Scientific knowledge and cooperation, in particular in the monitoring of glaciers and snow glacier, are crucial to a better understanding of vulnerability and sound policies for adaptation to climate change," says Ms. Christine Tovmasyan.

"Therefore, cooperation among the countries of the region is important, and one of the components of the project is to strengthen regional cooperation and coordination of monitoring of glaciers and runoff formation," the expert concludes.

Glaciers are vital for Central Asians because of the region's arid climate. The two main river systems in Central Asia, the Syrdarya and Amudarya draining into the Aral Sea, and the Ili River draining into Lake Balkhash, are highly dependent on the seasonal melting of snow and glaciers, with little additional precipitation input in the lower reaches of the rivers. These river systems support people's lives and livelihoods as well as economic development in the region. However, Central Asian glaciers, like other glaciers around the world, are experiencing a rapid decline in mass.

Changes in glaciers in the Central Asia will have significant effects on the large populations of the region. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the national and regional interlinkages of glacial and permafrost systems of participating countries to formulate national and regional adaptation strategies.