Kyrgyzstan Responds to Climate Change with Artificial Glaciers

Artificial glacier; Photo: @iStock

Global climate change, a topic which is always on the minds of scientists around the world, has particularly acute effects in landlocked Central Asia, where water has always been in limited supply, the effects of climate change – a topic increasingly on the minds of people around the world – have been particularly acute. In recent years, the shortage of water in rivers and lakes has had an extremely negative impact on agriculture and livestock farming.

With 94% of the country’s landmass covered by mountains, Kyrgyzstan feels the negative effects of climate change first and foremost. A harsh continental climate with a wide range of average annual temperature fluctuations (from +40℃ to -40℃) and low precipitation makes livestock farming difficult. In addition, the inaccessible mountainous terrain makes it challenging for local residents to access drinking water – the main source of which is mountain springs.

Therefore, artificial glaciers have been created to combat the negative effects of rising temperatures. The first project of its kind appeared in the Republic in 2019 in the village of Jergetal in the Naryn Region. By 2021, the total number of artificial ice deposits had grown to eleven.

These numbers continue to grow. In 2022, an artificial glacier was built in the remote pasture of Kara-Dobo in the Jalal-Abad region thanks to the efforts of local residents, and with technical assistance from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and financial support of $5,500 from the UN Peacebuilding Fund. The next year, more villages followed this example to preserve livestock farming in arid areas.

The artificial ice in Orozbekov in the Batken Region is expected to help provide sustenance for livestock belonging to the residents of three villages. “Water for the glacier comes from a mountain spring through pipelines,” Chairman of the Pasture Users Committee of the Orozbekov village area, Eminbek Temirbayev explained. “This system works without requiring electricity.”

It is believed that the world’s first artificial glacier was created in the late 1980s by the engineer, the “Ice Man” Chewang Norphel from the Indian village of Skara in the western Tibetan Plateau. Later, having improved the methods for creating these glaciers, the specialist helped local villagers store and deliver water for fields and pastures.

Artificial glaciers are created by freezing a natural spring of water that emerges from a mountain source. Gradually, ice towers of 30 to 50 meters high form around those springs. With warming temperatures, the glacier begins to melt, becoming a prolonged source of drinking water.

The relative cheapness of such structures and the simplicity of their design make artificial glaciers a universal means of providing water to residents in arid and hard to access mountainous areas. People only need to install the pipes, and nature will take care of the rest.
Given the successful experience with the installations in Kyrgyzstan, the authorities are planning to build four more artificial glaciers in 2024 as part of a joint project in the Batken and Leilek districts of Batken Region. According to the Kyrgyz Zhayity Association, there are now 30 artificial glaciers in Kyrgyzstan.


Times of Central Asia