Glaciers are natural renewable solid reservoirs of freshwater and the only source of freshwater in the high mountains during the dry season. They are considered one of the best indicators of climate variation and change. Understanding trends in glacier change helps predict water availability, glacial hazards, and other impacts of climate change.
A glacier study carried out by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW) in Afghanistan, under ICIMOD’s SERVIR Hindu Kush Himalaya (SERVIR-HKH) initiative, provides information on the status of glaciers in the country. The glacier database, the first of its kind, is the culmination of a study carried out by researchers at ICIMOD and MEW using satellite imagery. It provides information on the decadal change of glaciers in Afghanistan since 1990 and their status in 2015. The study indicates that the number of glaciers and the total area they occupy decreased between 1990 and 2010, as well as in 2015. In 25 years (1990–2015), Afghanistan lost 406 km2 (13.8%) of its total glacier area.
ICIMOD has also developed a glacier dynamics application for Afghanistan that provides an interactive visualisation of the database online. The interactive glacier maps 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.
The database and application was launched at a dissemination workshop organized at the MEW office in Kabul on 2 July 2018.
The data generated from the study can be utilized in modeling availability of water resources, glacial hazards, and impacts of climate change in Afghanistan.