Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Tajiks Say Melting Glaciers Key to Climate Debate

Tajikistan’s delegation to the Copenhagen climate change conference has proposed setting up an international body to save the world’s glaciers.
By IWPR Central Asia
Shahodat Saibnazarova interviewed scientists who said Tajikistan is experiencing higher average temperatures as a result of global climate change. The World Bank has listed the Central Asian state among the ten countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Jamila Ubaidulloeva, head of the national meteorological centre, attributes the increasing number of landslides, hailstorms and other events to climate change.

“If these emissions aren’t curbed, we can expect more surprises in years to come,” she said.

Tajikistan produces very low carbon emissions compared with most other countries around the world.

Long term, the biggest problem facing Tajikistan may be glacier melt.

With some of the world’s highest mountains outside the Himalayas, Tajikistan stores large volumes of water in its glaciers.

“The glaciers are most vulnerable of all,” says Ilhom Rajabov of the national Climate Change Centre. “They are melting very rapidly and intensely. We forecast that if current trends continue, then by around the year 2050, temperatures in Tajikistan will be two degrees higher and the country will lose more than 20 per cent of its glaciers.

“The Fedchenko glacier is Central Asia’s largest, and it is receding by nearly ten metres a year.”

Alexander Yablokov, an expert with Tajikistan’s Geographical Centre, is similarly concerned.

“The area under ice will diminish,” he told IWPR. “And that means that in summer – July, August and September – less water will flow into the rivers, and hence into the reservoirs and canals.”

Tajik scientists are running a pilot project to measure glacier melt, but conducting a comprehensive national survey would cost more than the government could afford. Many believe the international community should invest in this project, not least because Tajikistan’s mountains could be used to model glacier melt patterns worldwide.