Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for the Panj-Amu River Basin

Executive Summary

Afghanistan is one of the most at-risk countries from climate change. Within the country, the Panj-Amu River Basin in the northeast is particularly sensitive as it is characterized by remote and rugged topography, high elevation glaciers, and local communities with a high dependence on natural resources. Projections of climate change in the region show increased climate impacts on natural hazards including droughts, floods, landslides, and avalanches. In addition, warming temperatures and changes in rainfall will affect ecosystem productivity to support livestock, agriculture, and biodiversity. The latter is also directly impacted as climate change forces species to relocate to track suitable climate conditions and habitats.

The Panj-Amu River Basin is also a vital source of water for millions of people both in Afghanistan and in neighboring countries. Several important rivers, including the Amu Darya, originate in the Panj-Amu River Basin and are influenced by complex hydrological processes. These hydrological processes will also be directly impacted by climate change, as both increases and decreases in rainfall, and increased snow and glacier melt will contribute to additional runoff and discharge throughout the region. This will have both short- and long-term impacts on water availability for people (e.g., for irrigation) and for wildlife.

The lcoal communities within the region depend on natural resources, such as productive rangelands, for grazing livestock and for fuel and firewood collection. In general, communities are characterized by low education, wealth and income, and limited opportunities and alternative livelihoods. As a result, this decreases the adaptive capacity of local communities to cope with climate change impacts.

The Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment Report outlines a comprehensive climate change vulnerability assessment to determine the patterns and magnitude of climate change exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity, which ultimately contribute to overall climate change vulnerability. The assessment in the report covers six main sectors: climate, natural hazards, ecosystems, hydrology, wildlife, and local communities. For each sector, several indicators related to sector-specific vulnerability are analyzed using the best available data. The results are depicted as maps covering the entire Panj-Amu River Basin (also provided in the Map Viewer on this website) and are summarized by ecoregion and province.

The results are intended to guide policy, management, and the conservation and sustainability of ecosystems and natural resources. Thus, each major section of the report is concluded with a dedicated subsection delivering policy and management recommendations. Reducing vulnerability in the region will require immediate and sustained action across all sectors. The results presented in the report identify at-risk ecosystems, wildlife, and communities, and provide a blueprint for effective conservation and sustainable development action.