Afghanistan: Threats to glaciers in Hindu Kush length: 4.39




Glaciers are formed when snow up in cold heights, never melts but instead becomes ice.

In the Himalayan mountain range in Asia, the glaciers in summer are sources of some of the world's largest rivers that supply water to more than a billion people, including in India and China.

According to researchers, warming in the Himalayan region is a few degrees higher than the global average, and in 25 years, 15% of the glaciers in Afghanistan have disappeared. This poses a threat to large sections of the country's population, like farmers here in the Fuladi Valley in Bamiyan province.




The road up into the Hindu Kush-mountains in central Afghanistan is breathtaking. Hindu Kush is the western extension of the Himalayas with peaks higher than 7000 meters. Here are more than 3000 glaciers to be found, and the water coming from them during the dry summers of Afghanistan, provides all those living downstream with water for drinking and agriculture.


We move slowly upwards on the slopes of the Koh Baba-mountains in Bamiyan province. At around 3500 meters height above sea level, the snow is deep.


On an assignment for Afghan authorities, Amanullah Anwari has, by studying satellite images and by own excursions in the area, made an assessment of the glaciers. Recent results have shown that the glaciers here are retreating.


Amanullah Anwari, glacier researcher, Bamiyan

-We have found that during 25 years totally 13,8% of the Afghanistans glaciers have melted. It covers 402 square km:s, these 13.8%.


Models by climate researchers show that warming in the Himalaya region is a few degrees above the global average. The glaciers in the Hindu Kush are relatively small and are therefore more affected. Researchers calculate that at the end of the century, in eighty years, 60% of the glaciers here will have vanished. If nothing is done, the population will then have no outcome here.


Amanullah Anwari, glacier researcher, Bamiyan

-Especially if you talk about Baba mountain,glacier water is the major source for drinking and farming for the villages downstream. If there are no glaciers, there will be problems with drinking water for the people and they will loose their farms and culture. Anything which is their economical source.


Water from the glaciers is a requirement for agriculture during Afghanistan's dry summers. Almost all fertile areas are irrigated and the systems feeding water to the fields are some places centuries old. But the melting glaciers also pose other dangers. Lakes under the glaciers can suddenly be released.


Amanullah Anwari, glacier researcher, Bamiyan

-If this glacier lake will collapse, it will destroy anything which is in front, or in the flow direction.


If the ice barrier underneath holding the glacier lake collapses, it can send a crash-flood, filled with rocks and mud, downstream, threathening the population in the villages.


Surkh Joy is a village consisting of about 50 brown-colored mud houses, at the upper end of the Fuladi Valley. Amir Mohammad has been living here all his life. He remembers what happened.


Amir Mohammad, villager, Surkh Joy

-One year ago, one of those glacier lakes collapsed. The water crashed into the irrigation dam and wiped it away and flooded our fields for two days. It caused much damage to the people here.


The little shop is the meeting-center in the village.


Jurma Khan, villager, Surkh Joy

-If the glaciers disappear, our agriculture will be finished. All fields will become too dry because of lack of water.


The decrease in water level worries the villagers. They want the government to help them


Sher Ahmad, villager, Surkh Joy

-My opinion is, if the government builds a mud dam here in the area of Koh Baba, then during winter we can collect and save the water.


Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest and most underdeveloped countries. But even here, changes in climate now to be seen, worry people here.


-Yes, in fact, not only here in Koh Baba but also around the world because of the global warming. The climate is changing but what can we do?


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