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Glacial lakes in Afghanistan

Kunj glacier and glacial lake in Panjshir, Kabul basin, Afghanistan

1 Kunj glacier and glacial lake in Panjshir, Kabul basin, Afghanistan, in August 2018 (Photo: Mahboobullah Bariz/NWARA)

The National Water Affairs Regulation Authority (NWARA) and ICIMOD worked together to develop information on glaciers and glacial lakes in Afghanistan through ICIMOD’s SERVIR Hindu Kush Himalaya (SERVIR-HKH) Initiative. Afghanistan’s glacier dataset (1990–2015) was released in 2018. The General Directorate of Water Resources of NWARA and ICIMOD then prepared datasets on glacial lakes in Afghanistan (1990–2015). This is a first-of-its-kind dataset on the distribution of glacial lakes in Afghanistan and observed changes since the 1990s that covers the whole of Afghanistan using consistent data sources and methods.

ICIMOD developed the Glacial Lakes in Afghanistan application that provides an interactive visualization of the database on glacial lakes online. The interactive maps for glacial lakes were prepared for 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2015 using a uniform data set and methodology, which provide a scientific basis for understanding the changes taking place in the glacial environment in Afghanistan.

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Distribution of glaciers and glacial lakes in Afghanistan

2 Distribution of glaciers and glacial lakes in Afghanistan

  • Facts and figures

  • Afghanistan has 1,942 glacial lakes that cover an area of 8 km2.
  • The glacial lakes mostly range from 0.003 km2 to less than 1 km2 in Only three lakes are larger than 1 km2.
  • The largest lake (14.63 km2) is located in the Upper Panj sub-basin.
  • The glacial lakes are found from 2,900 masl to 5,400 masl; 91% of the lakes are located between 4,000 and 5,000
  • The Panj Amu basin contains the highest number (64%) and area coverage (74%) of glacial lakes in
  • During a period of 25 years (1990–2015), the total number and area of glacial lakes in Afghanistan increased by 8% and 10%,
  • In recent periods, the formation of new glacial lakes and the expansion of existing ones is higher than the disappearance and recession of glacial
  • Methodology
  • Status of glacial lakes in Afghanistan (2015)
  • About SERVIR