Quantcast

In the spotlight

For this issue of HKH CryoHub: In the Spotlight, we are in conversation with Associate Prof. Hedayatullah Arian, Head – Hydrometeorology Department, Kabul University, Afghanistan. Prof. Arian has been leading field-based glacier monitoring in Afghanistan organized by ICIMOD through the SWaRMA Initiative. In this interview, he talks about the activities leading up to the successful implementation of the field-based Cryosphere Monitoring Programme.

Hedayatullah Arian

Hedayatullah Arian arrow

Head – Hydrometeorology Department Geo-Science Faculty Kabul University, Afghanistan

Q:

Thank you for talking to “In the Spotlight”. Congratulations on successfully conducting the first benchmark glacier fieldwork in Afghanistan. That is quite an achievement! How did it go? Did you face any challenges in carrying out this field expedition?

A:

Thank you for highlighting our work in starting cryosphere monitoring activities in Afghanistan in this issue of “In the Spotlight.” We have been working on glacier monitoring and research in Afghanistan for the past three years.

It was a gradual process. In 2017, we installed two bamboo stakes on Pir Yakh Glacier in Panjshir Province. In 2019, we installed five additional stakes and extended the stake network up to the accumulation area. We also installed an automatic weather station and hydrometeorological stations along the glacier valley. For us, that was a major milestone in the cryosphere monitoring field expedition in Afghanistan.

 

Q:

What were your main hurdles and how will you overcome these in the coming expeditions?

A:

For any fieldwork on a glacier, planning and attention to detail are as important as the execution. As our monitoring sites are in remote areas, we need to make sure that we do not leave behind any equipment that is important for carrying out the work. As this was our first major fieldwork, we also received great support from ICIMOD through the SWaRMA Initiative, which provided training to our staff, provided equipment and technical backstopping, and helped organize and conduct field activities. Moving forward, we have to make sure that we don’t lose this momentum.

Q:

You have been working with Kabul University. How has your background in glaciology been useful for your work?

A:

I completed my MSc by Research in Glaciology from Kathmandu University, Nepal, in 2014. My focus was on the physics of glaciers and fundamental models in the hydrometeorology curriculum. I feel it’s an important aspect of studying glaciers and there is a need to include these fields in the glaciology course besides other hydrometeorology subjects in geosciences. I was the only trained glaciologist in Kabul University then; I had to lead most of the glacier research activities. But we have three glaciologists now – all graduates of the same course I did. Obviously, having trained in both field data collection and analysis, our knowledge and understanding of the situation has really improved, giving more meaning to the work we do.

Moreover, the National Water Affairs Regulation Authority (NWARA) – formerly the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW) – also established a glacier section within the Ministry. It has since become easier to collaborate and contribute towards monitoring our water resources.

Q:

Why do you think cryosphere research is important for Afghanistan?

A:

Snow and glaciers are the major water sources for Afghanistan, but we are also prone to cryosphere-related disasters. For instance, in 2018, 10 lives were lost and properties damaged by the glacier lake outburst flood in Panjshir Province. Such flood incidents, caused by rapid glacier melt, are now happening more frequently. This indicates that our glaciers are melting at an increasing rate.

Until 2018, we did not have any government body that was focused on monitoring and carrying out research on our water resources. There is a lot to do. Our water-related sectors need to study glaciers and glacier hydrology, glacier contributions to streamflow, and models of glacier hydrology. We need to explore the impact of glacier retreat on the economy, communities, water supplies, agriculture, hydropower, and other environmental aspects.

Since cryosphere-related disaster events are on the rise, disaster risk reduction and mitigation actions need to be prioritized as well.

Q:

Do you have a message for decision makers?

A:

Afghanistan is a mountainous country, but its cryospheric phenomenon is the least studied in the region. Our government has recently established a Glaciology Section within the NWARA; this means there is growing recognition of the importance of cryosphere resources and related issues. We are hoping that this support will also feed into promoting and investing in further research. Having a research course on glaciology within Kabul University in the long term will enhance cryosphere monitoring activities and research in the country.

Q:

How do you think cryosphere monitoring activities in Afghanistan will progress in the next five years?

A:

We started our first glacier monitoring activities on Pir Yakh Glacier in Panjshir Province. It is the big glaciated basin in Afghanistan and easy to access without any security issues. In the next five years, we will focus on extending the stake network on Pir Yakh and share our data with the World Glacier Monitoring Service. If everything goes as planned, we will extend our glacier field monitoring to other glaciers as well.

Lunch-break-from-the-fieldwork

Lunch break from the fieldwork. Associate Prof. Hedayatullah Arian [right] and his team have lunch at the base camp of Pik Yakh Glacier.

(Photo: Muhammad Abdullah/Kabul University)

Associate Prof. Arian [left] and Prof. Rabbanj [right] measure discharge of Chumar Dara River.

(Photo: Muhammad Abdullah/Kabul University)

Recently installed rain gauge station near Pir Yakh Glacier.

(Photo: Milad Dildar/ICIMOD)

In the Spotlight

Smriti Basnet
Read more
Mohan B Chand
Read more
explore