In the near future, Kazakhstan is under the risk of being uninformed about dangerous natural phenomena. This all is because of lack of funding for the country's Hydrometeorological service. About how this effected on the life of the country, we all felt this spring, when the flood began, and almost half of the Kazakhstan territory was under water. Rescuers and other services blamed Kazhydromet forecasts, which turned out to be inaccurate due to outdated equipment, a lack of modern equipment and qualified specialists. Meanwhile, in connection with global climate change, in Kazakhstan was recorded an increase in the frequency of hazardous events. About who is to blame and what we should do, we talked with Director General of RSE "Kazhydromet" – Mr. Marat Kynatov.
Mr. Marat Kynatov, this year there was a widespread criticism of Kazhydromet forecasts in the period when was flooding. Do you agree with it?
Yes, I agree, the hydrologists made inaccuracies in the forecasts by flat rivers. The main problems in the compilation of forecasts for us arise on the rivers Nura, Esil and Ilek, flowing through the territories of Karaganda, Akmola, North Kazakhstan and Aktobe regions. To identify the problem, we did an analysis that showed that during the last 40 years, hydrologists used just one single method - the statistical method of hydrological forecasting.
In 2018, we will significantly improve the forecasts and will ensure governmental bodies and population with a high quality and timely information.
You're talking about the lack of funds and much more about, on whose funds are you planning to improve the quality of forecasts?
About the lack of funding I will tell later. In the meantime, let’s talk about what we can do now. We are already working on improving the existing methodologies. We will also use two methods previously not used by Kazhydromet specialists. One of them is numerical models for hydrological forecasting, widely used in developed countries. We have attracted experts from the World Meteorological Organization, specialists of the Hydrometeorological service of Italy, who together with experts of Kazhydromet are working on a pilot model of hydrological forecasting using the example of the Arys river. In agreement with the China Meteorological Administration, its technical experts will come to Astana in October for consultations and exchange of experience, including numerical models of hydrological forecasting.
The third method that we will use is the field method. According to the agreement with the CoES of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, along with the emergency departments and Kazhydromet branches, there will be detours of river basins, and special attention will pay to the definition of moisture reserves in ravines, ravines, forest plantations where a significant amount of snow can accumulate. In addition, we will strengthen the work of meteorological stations and hydrological posts.
A monthly hydrological forecast will be compiled based on the comparison of the three methods above.
Over a long period of observation, the peak of the flood on the flat rivers occurs from the 2nd decade of March to the 2-3th of April. The situation during this period can rapidly change (within 2-3 days), depending on the air temperature, precipitation, wind, depth of soil freezing. That’s when the interaction and coordinated work of all services - Kazhydromet, CWR, CoES - is very important. For example, in 2017 flooding of settlements in the vicinity of the cities of Astana, Aktobe and Petropavlovsk, which was resulted from the fullness of the reservoirs before the peak flood in Astana (70%), Aktyubinsk (70%) and Sergeevsky (90%), on which 70% of the annual flow of lowland rivers, it was possible to avoid or reduce the area under flooding.
In making forecast it is very important to have the data on snow cover volumes and its covered areas in the river basins. Therefore, starting from the next year, we will use space remote sensing imagery of MODIS, Landsat (NASA) and Santinantal (EUMETSAT) satellites for forecasting the spring floods.
We also step aside from the Soviet tradition of providing a seasonal forecast of spring floods (once for 3-4 months) for a monthly forecast. Starting from the next year, Kazhydromet will provide monthly forecasts of the spring flood and river water flow, and will inform about a change in the flood direction every 10 days. Together, all these measures will allow us to provide all stakeholders with the high quality information and hydrological forecasts.
But how are you going to implement this, if you are talking about obsolete equipment?
The maximum number of 1,460 stations and posts of Hydrometeorological and ecological monitoring was reached in Kazakhstan in the mid-80's of the last century. By today, we have 745 posts and observation stations, that is, the technical equipment of Kazhydromet has decreased by 2 times. Many existing stations and observation posts require updating due to the expiration of its lifespan. If for years of independence our country has advanced in many directions, but the Hydrometeorological field, its technical equipment got worse, in comparison with the last century. At the same time, over the past 25 years, the Hydrometeorological services of many countries, if we take for example China and Russia, they had significantly upgraded the technical equipment and they use modern high-tech equipment of observation and measurement. Roshydromet completed the first stage of modernization and proceeded to implement the second stage of modernization.
Let's take the capacity of the Hydrometeorological network's equipment in terms of the amount of financing per one square kilometer. For comparison: in Japan - $ 2,275 per square kilometer, in South Korea - $1,425, in China - $416, in Finland - $138. In Kazakhstan - only $ 7 per square kilometer for meteorological, hydrological and environmental monitoring. Of course, this effects on the quality of forecasts. According to the World Bank and the World Meteorological Organization, 1 the monetary unit aimed at the development of the National Hydrometeorological Service gives an economic and social effect of 7 monetary units.
It is clear that large investments are needed. How are you going to solve the problem of financing?
To solve technical equipment problems Kazhydromet developed modernization program for the next two years. It was approved at the board of the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The total cost is 17.5 billion of tenge. Compared with the previously developed development program (87 billion of tenge in 2013), modernization funding has been reduced by 5 times, due to the use of observational and measurement tools based on modern digital technologies.
The modernization program provides installation of 9 radars, 30 environmental monitoring stations, 4 upper-air stations, opening of 67 previously closed hydrological stations for providing hydrological monitoring and forecasting, as well as the replacement of morally and physically worn-out observing and measuring instruments at operating stations and posts. But this is only a medium-term of modernization program. The second stage is digitization of the whole Kazhydromet.
President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev has already approved the proposals of the Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev to modernize our industry. The Ministry of Energy has already made a budget request, which provides for the financing of the program. But now necessary funds have not been arranged for modernization in 2018.
Can Kazhydromet earn part of the necessary funds independently?
The incomes from the treaty activities of the enterprise are less than 8% of the total income. To ensure the safety of the population, the government provides financing of the Hydrometeorological service, this is a worldwide practice. However, the main problem is annual reduction in funding for meteorological monitoring.
Since from 2015 timely monitoring of weather condition and of storm phenomena, which are necessary for early warnings of governmental bodies and the population about dangerous phenomena, are underfunded in the amount of 1.4 billion of tenge.
Also, Kazhydromet is carrying out work on Hydrometeorological and environmental monitoring and forecasting on the basis of the price list approved with the Antimonopoly Committee. The current price list is unprofitable and do not cover the actual expanses of Kazhydromet in amount of KZT 1.7 billion of tenge. In December 2016, in accordance with the requirements of regulatory legal acts, we submitted to the committee for approval updated price list, covering the actual costs that are still pending. Generally, the total amount of underfunding of work provided by Kazhydromet on annual observations and measurements is 3.1 billion of tenge. That has a direct impact on the high turnover of staff due to low salaries of observers. The average salary of Kazhydromet employees is 46% of the average wage in Kazakhstan. Our industry is not attractive for qualified and young specialists, who acquires practical experience in Kazhydromet and then moves to other organizations in order to get higher salaries.
Our industry is time-consuming; the vast-majority of the work is on observers. This is not an easy physical work that must be done around the clock in any weather. Many experienced and skilled workers who have worked for several decades at Kazhydromet will retire on reaching the retirement age. Preparation of 1 qualified and experienced specialist in our industry takes 7-10 years. The modernization program includes equipping of observation network with high-tech digital equipment. For its maintenance, it is necessary to attract and train highly qualified specialists on competitive terms of payment.
The main value of Kazhydromet is qualified specialists with experience in time-consuming, analytical work on Hydrometeorological and environmental monitoring and forecasting. Therefore, it is vitally important for the whole country to implement the modernization program of our industry. The safety of the population depends on it in the truest sense of the word.