Quito, January 23, 2014 - Academics and government officials from Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan will visit Ecuador (January 27-30) to learn about the regional program, Adaptation to the Rapid Impact of Glacier Retreat in the Tropical Andes (PRAA). The PRAA is funded mainly by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, with some activities in Colombia, with World Bank support and under the administrative management of the General Secretariat of the Andean Community of Nations.
Part of the economic development and growth of the Andean countries and the countries located in the Indo River Basin depend on water resource systems nourished by glaciers. These countries (which receive water from glaciers of the Andean Mountains in the case of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, and of the Himalayas Mountains in the case of Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan) face several common challenges, including population growth, vulnerability to climate change and hydrological variability from year to year.
The impact of climate change on the Indo River Basin is a key concern because its inhabitants depend heavily on snow and water from melting glaciers, which contribute significantly to the annual water flow. Nevertheless, the more than 18,000 glaciers that nourish this basin have not been studied and are largely unmonitored. Climate change represents a major challenge for the highly complex management of the basin’s water resources. According to some estimates, the combined impact of climate change and population growth is expected to reduce the per capita availability of renewable water from 1,329m3 to below 750m3 by 2050 among the populations living along the Indo River.
In this scenario, monitoring of glaciers provides crucial data for decision-making with respect to the adaptation to climate change and the economic growth of the basin.
In the case of the Andes, through the aforementioned PRAA Project and other national initiatives, significant progress has been made in recent years in consolidating a systematic study of the glaciers, their monitoring at the national and regional levels, as well as with respect to understanding the impact of glacier retreat on local ecosystems and economies. In this region, important advances have been made in building regional consensus and in the field implementation of specific measures for adapting to climate change in highland areas. Therefore, the exchange of information and experiences among participants from both basins will prove valuable since the two groups can exchange experiences and lessons learned. The Andean countries participating in the PRAA project have much to share regarding the implementation of glacier monitoring technologies, the creation of regional networks and specific adaptation measures to improve water resource management. This visit will create an ideal opportunity to do so.
The exchange includes a visit to Antisana Glacier, whose monitoring stations, at over 4,000 meters above sea level, are the highest in Ecuador and the only ones installed near and directly above the glacier surface. These stations collect valuable information on atmospheric conditions and help scientists learn more about the relationship between climate and the resulting water balance.
Additionally, the visit seeks to build technical capacities of participants as well as inform on and initiate the joint regional implementation of glacier data management and information sharing among countries. Moreover, during the visit, participants will learn about implementation of the PRAA project in Bolivia and Peru.