The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.
Report

Water resources of Afghanistan and related hazards under rapid climate warming

Rapid climate change is impacting water resources in Afghanistan. The consequences are poorly known. Suitable mitigation and adaptation strategies have not been developed. Thus, this paper summarizes the current status of knowledge in relation to Afghan water resources. More than 130 scientific articles, reports and data sources are synthesized to review the potential impacts of climate change on the cryosphere, streamflow, groundwater and hydrological extremes. The available information sug gests that Afghanistan is currently witnessing significant increases in temperature, less so in precipitation. There is evidence of shifts in the intra-annual distribution of streamflow, with reduced summer flows in non-glaciated basins and increased winter and spring streamflow. However, in the short term, there will be an increase in summer ice melt in glaciated basins, a “glacial subsidy”, which sustains summer streamflow, despite reduced snow accumulation. The future prognosis for water resources is likely to be more serious when this glacier subsidy ends. Climate change impacts on water resources have been widely observed and future impacts are likely to cause significant harm to water resources at both regional and global scales. Water shortages, especially when relating to river basins that cross national or international jurisdictions, are likely to lead to conflict. Understanding such shortages and how and when they might develop is important to give the time needed to prepare and to adapt. This is why national-scale water resource assessments under future climate are key to sustainable resource management. Yet they are crucially lacking in some world regions. In this review, we provide a systematic overview of existing climate change impact studies on water resources and related national hazards for Afghanistan, a country in the western Himalayas, which receives 80% of its water resources from snow and glacier melt. Afghanistan is poorly developed in terms of scientific research and environmental monitoring; it is one of those semi-arid to arid countries of Central Asia where livelihoods and economies have developed in such a way that they are now strongly dependent upon mountain water resources including summer snow- and icemelt. These resources are potentially threatened by ongoing glacier retreats in this area. Water availability in the catchments without glaciers is strongly related to snowmelt in Afghanistan mainly during the spring and early summer seasons. Many Afghans rely on snowmelt for irrigated croplands, and snow drought occurring alongside ongoing conflicts, violence, and economic challenges can further stress the country. Such sensitivity can decrease when enough snow is accumulated at higher elevations. Despite this, relatively few studies have assessed the impacts of climate change on water resources in Afghanistan, and a clear picture of what we know about Afghan water resources and possible changes is lacking. There is no national-scale water resource assessment available. This article contributes to filling this gap by developing an initial baseline.

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.