DACAAR, Danish Technical University (DTU) and Kabul Polytechnic University (KPU) embark on a joint advanced groundwater search

There are great perspectives for Afghanistan in a newly developed groundwater research in Afghanistan. Using remote-sensing technology (earth observations), the project aims to create an unprecedented understanding of groundwater resource availability in support efficient relief work.

DACAAR, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and Kabul’s Polytechnic University are proud to have been selected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark to implement one of the most advanced satellite programmes ever approved to support groundwater search and sustainable climate adaptation.

Afghanistan has seen more than 40 years of high instability and is prone to natural disasters, that are becoming even more frequent and extreme due to climate change and poor infrastructure. Afghanistan has recently suffered a devastating drought in the Western provinces and finding drinking water is a concern for more than 20 per cent of the Afghan population. The country is also hit by terrible floods in the spring season, because of heavy rains and lack of infrastructure to divert and manage the sudden high amount of water.

Therefore, new water technologies and innovative solutions have to be tested not only to find new water resources, but also to develop water purification technologies and practices. Purifying water is extremely important in the Afghan context since groundwater in many parts of the country contains high percentages of salt and arsenic, making it undrinkable. To ensure the long-term sustainability of the project and to empower the local researchers, a focus of the project is on developing innovative solutions in cooperation with the Kabul Polytechnic University.

The partnership is unique. DTU in Denmark can manage large parts of the satellite program in remote parts of Afghanistan, while Afghan researchers can contribute to the implementation of the program locally – and at the same time get trained during the cooperation with DTU.

“DACAAR is proud that “Water for Afghanistan” is anchored in our organization as an administrative partner” says Klaus Løkkegaard, Head of Secretariat for DACAAR in Copenhagen.

In total, five DTU researchers and three researchers from Kabul will work on the project in addition to the technical staff from DACAAR. The technical part is led by DTU’s PhD and Associate Professor, Martin Rygaard, who will also oversee the project.

The trick in “Water for Afghanistan” is that we gain the knowledge to determine the water balance in fragile and remote areas where it is unsafe to send people out for direct investigations. This knowledge can also be used far beyond Afghanistan, for example in Africa explains Martin Rygaard.

“When we can predict the water balance, we can send local people out much more precisely, where water projects make sense for both water supply and safety. In our collaboration with Afghan researchers, we will have many virtual meetings over Teams or Zoom. If security allows it, we can also meet in Kabul or Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries. The methods and extent of satellite data research that we are working on now have not been tested before, and in the long term there is also the possibility of employing drone technology”

DACAAR has more than 35 years of experience in implementing water supply projects in Afghanistan and is considered a leader in the sector. “Water for Afghanistan” project represent a novelty that can enhance the effectiveness of DACAAR efforts to improve the lives of the Afghan people, especially in the present situation.

“We look forward to helping Afghan people in remote areas in these completely new and effective ways. At the same time, we can better protect many of our 1,000 local employees in Afghanistan, by implementing water supply projects more precisely than we have been able to do before”, Klaus Løkkegaard points out.