Training to Measure Glaciers in Afghanistan, Bhutan, and Nepal

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Mountaineering guide Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa demonstrates how to use a climbing harness during one of the practical sessions that took place during the theoretical training at ICIMOD.
Photo: Snigdha Nanda/ICIMOD

A four-day theoretical training on glacier mass balance monitoring was conducted from 25–28 October 2016 at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) headquarters in Kathmandu. This meeting was followed by field training at the Yala Glacier in Langtang from 11–25 November 2016. Experts from ICIMOD’s cryosphere initiative conducted the training to a class with members from partner institutions in Nepal, Bhutan, and Afghanistan. 

The 17 participants included representatives from the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, the Government of Nepal; the Department of Hydro-Met Services (DHMS), the Government of Bhutan; the Water Resources Department of the Ministry of Energy and Water, the Government of Afghanistan; Kathmandu University (KU), Nepal; Tribhuvan University, Nepal; Kabul University, Afghanistan; and the UNEP Resilience and Disaster Unit, Afghanistan.

The training covered glaciological background, and common methods used to measure and analyse glacier mass balance, glacier geometry, and snow properties.  Part of the training focused on the practical requirements of cryosphere research including basic mountaineering skills, health and safety risks, and other measures related to working in a high altitude alpine environment. 

Lessons in the field: Students getting practical training on basic mountaineering skills, necessary for researchers conducting studies in high altitude mountain environments.  
Photo: Tika Gurung/ICIMOD.

Participants, a good mix of students and staff working with ICIMOD’s partner organizations in regional member countries, found the training relevant and timely. For Ruhollah Beigi, senior manager of the Flood and Drought Forecast department of the Ministry of Energy and Water, the Government of Afghanistan, the training provided more insight into where Afghanistan is currently lagging behind. “We lack experts in the field, and also good equipment. We are looking forward to more collaborations with ICIMOD,” he said.  

A first year Master of Glaciology student from Kathmandu University, Reeju Shrestha said, “The training gave us the opportunity to interact with experts, and exchange experiences and lessons learnt with participants from Nepal as well as other countries.” 

“Practical lessons will enhance the quality of our field expeditions,” said Jambay Choden from DHMS, Bhutan. DHMS is the implementing partner for the Cryosphere Monitoring Programme–Bhutan.

The expedition to Yala Glacier that followed the theoretical training was organized by ICIMOD in collaboration with KU. Through field work there, participants gained hands-on training on and exposure to field research and data collection. The practical field training focused on glacier mass balance and length monitoring, and basic mountaineering techniques. Data was collected for black carbon analysis of snow, and ground surface temperature data was collected for the study of permafrost.

The training was a part of the Cryosphere Monitoring Programme funded by the Norwegian Government. ICIMOD’s cryosphere initiative partners institutes include the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, the Government of Nepal; Water and Energy Commission Secretariat, the Government of Nepal; Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University; and DHMS, Bhutan.