GLOFCA Team Collaborates to Enhance Natural Hazard Management in Almaty Region

Kazakhstan, August 2023 

This summer, the Kazakh mountains have witnessed a period of heightened natural hazards, particularly from glacier lakes and slopes near Almaty city. Intense rainfall triggered mudflows that damaged roads and structures, though fortunately, no lives were lost. In a bid to fortify the region against such threats, the GLOFCA team visited Almaty in August 2023 to advance the design of an Early Warning System (EWS) and continue their project work.

Key Partnerships for Safer Environments

During this visit, Dr. Alessandro Cicoira engaged with crucial organizations. He was welcomed by the Institute of Geography and Water Security, the Glaciological Centre Under the Auspices of UNESCO, and the State Institute Kazselezashita. These collaborations form the backbone of efforts to improve hazard management.

Concrete Steps for Mitigation

Dr. Cicoira’s stay included productive interactions. At the Institute of Geography, Prof Akhmetkal Medeu and Mr. Nikolay Popov discussed plans for implementing new mitigation measures in Kazakhstan. These measures are designed to minimize risks and enhance protection.

Field Insights Inform Action

A thorough field visit, including a revisit to the Medeu dam and surrounding areas, allowed the GLOFCA team to gather critical data. Colleagues from the Kazselezashita institute, led by Deputy Head Mr. Murat Kassenov, provided valuable insights into potential installation locations. These insights will shape implementation proposals and be presented at an upcoming workshop.

Towards a Stronger Early Warning System

Local experts contributed actively to shaping the EWS design. Valuable input on logistics, administration, politics, and technical aspects of the system was provided by colleagues from local institutions. Their shared goal is to create a modern, robust, and sustainable early warning system that safeguards Almaty, the former capital city, for years to come.

Fostering Successful Cooperation

The visit’s intensity was a result of the strong partnership between the University of Zurich and local collaborators. This collaboration has been instrumental in the project’s progress. With this visit, the project enters a pivotal phase, focusing on planning and implementing active mitigation measures to address the risk of mudflows.

As the GLOFCA team captured crucial insights and fostered collaboration, they demonstrated the power of international cooperation in mitigating natural hazards. The journey to secure Almaty’s safety continues, with practical steps towards a resilient future.

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Kazakhstan’s experience joins global cooperation to create a safer environment

Kazakhstan, July 2022

Kazakhstan’s worldwide recognition for its mudflow research and expertise in managing natural hazards took center stage as the GLOFCA team explored the city of Almaty. The city’s formidable shield against hazards, large dams, impressed the team. The region’s elaborate network of monitoring stations, spread across mountain catchments, was an integral resource for local experts.

Key Collaborations for Enhanced Preparedness

Dr. Alessandro Cicoira was extended a warm welcome by the Institute of Geography and Water Security, the Glaciological Centre Under the Auspices of UNESCO, and the State Institute Kazselezashita. This partnership is pivotal for the success of projects aimed at making Kazakhstan more resilient.

On-Site Insights Deepen Understanding

The GLOFCA team delved into the field, with Dr. Cicoira and Dr. Munch from the SLF Snow and Avalanche Research Institute in Davos visiting the Tu Juksuur glacier. Accompanied by experts from the Central Asian Regional Glaciological Center (CARGC), they observed ongoing measurements despite adverse weather conditions. While weather thwarted some plans, it fueled compelling discussions. The team was treated to an exquisite meal at 3000 meters elevation, prepared by the gracious hosting team composed of Sandugash Usenovna Ranova, Vassiliy Petrovich Kapitza, Alexandr Borosovich Yegorov, Maria Evgenyevna Tatkova, Nikolay Yevgenyevich Kassatkin, and Aidana Kamalbekova.

Taking Action to Safeguard Almaty Region

A significant field survey focused on the Issik and Talgar catchments, integral to the GLOFCA Project. Mr. Murat Kassenov, Deputy Head of Kazselezashita, personally guided the visit, shedding light on Almaty Regions’s challenges and the solutions put in place. The Institute’s robust structure effectively addresses common hazards like snow avalanches, debris flows, mud flows, and landslides.

A Roadmap for Future Cooperation

Collaboration expanded to Al-Farabi University, where Dr. Salnikov and Dr. Taukebayev actively proposed synergies. The university’s hub, which includes the development of Early Warning Systems (EWS) for mudflows, aligned with the state institution Kazselezashita.

Strengthened Alliances for Safer Tomorrows

Coordination by the UNESCO office of Almaty enabled the Kazakh partners to demonstrate their operational strategies to counter GLOF and mud flow threats. Effective communication among partners ensured the smooth organization of future activities. The visit’s close marked the preparation for an international workshop on numerical modeling of GLOFs with the Software RAMMS, leaving the partners energized and ready for the next phase of the project.

As Kazakhstan and global allies join forces to tackle natural hazards, these collaborations hold the promise of creating more resilient communities in the face of adversity.

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