UNDP in Kyrgyzstan: Artificial Intelligence Against Natural Disasters and Dangerous Diseases

July 8, 2024


Climate and Environment

Kyrgyzstan is home to more than two thousand high-mountain lakes, with 368 of these categorized as breakthrough-prone. To protect the population from natural disasters, timely forecasting of such phenomena is essential. With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Kyrgyzstan has engaged artificial intelligence to address this challenge. Anton Uspensky of the UN News Service spoke with UNDP colleagues in Kyrgyzstan and government representatives about these projects.


AI and Disaster Risk Management

Alexandra Solovieva, UNDP Resident Representative in the Kyrgyz Republic, discussed two new programs based on the latest AI technologies. “Our project with the Ministry of Emergency Situations helps implement a unified information system for monitoring glacial lake outbursts,” she said. “Artificial intelligence can help manage disaster risks by using machine learning and algorithms to monitor and predict glacial lake outbursts and landslides. The system also informs authorities and citizens about potential dangers.”


Glacial Lake Outbursts

Daurbek Sakiyev, Director of the Monitoring and Forecasting Department of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Kyrgyzstan, explained in an interview with the UN News Service that their work focuses on three main areas: developing a national disaster action plan, strengthening the capacity to manage risks from glacial lake outbursts, and modernizing the population protection system at the local level, including upgrading and enhancing debris drainage channels.

There are more than 2,000 high-mountain lakes on our territory, of which 368 are categorized as breakthrough-prone,” Sakiyev emphasized. Depending on high-water years and intensive glacier melting, lakes form and fill up. If these lakes burst due to overflow, catastrophic mudslides can occur. There have been many such cases in Kyrgyzstan. Recent climate change, global temperature rise, and glacier degradation have increased this threat. New lakes are forming, posing a risk to infrastructure, settlements, and our citizens.


Climate Change 

Experts and scientists forecast that natural disasters will become more frequent in the next 50 years. We expect an increase in the number of natural disasters, particularly those related to the cryosphere and glaciology. That is why we are working on this task with UNDP, Sakiyev added.

He noted that artificial intelligence predicts rising water levels based on satellite imagery and alerts the Ministry of Emergency Situations when the situation becomes alarming.


AI Assistance

This program, this module, allows us to automatically receive data on lakes in our republic using space images and global climate models,” Sakiyev explained. “We can assess their filling using special cartographic tools: this involves evaluating the lake's surface area and conducting retrospective analyses by comparing archival images from past years. The system performs specific calculations and alerts the operator, who then informs our response services and local authorities. This enables us to prepare and issue forecasts for potential lake outbusrts.”

This approach is being applied in Kyrgyzstan for the first time. Previously, collecting information on glacial lakes required either field studies, which involved trekking to the lake under difficult conditions, or helicopter overflights, which were expensive. Now, the system automatically identifies these lakes, compares them with previous data, and provides a preliminary analysis. Specialists then conduct deeper analyses to verify the data, either by sending a ground team or conducting helicopter surveys. This work was part of a UNDP project funded by the Government of Japan. 


Knowledge Exchange 

Kyrgyzstan believes the experience gained from this new system will be useful to other countries. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, and Nepal have already expressed interest in this unique solution, according to Sakiyev. Alexandra Solovieva, head of the UNDP office in Kyrgyzstan, shares this view. Knowledge sharing is vital in our projects because UNDP is a global network where expertise can be exchanged and applied locally, and local expertise can be shared globally, she said.


Use of AI in the Health Care System

Another UNDP-supported initiative in Kyrgyzstan is the use of artificial intelligence in medicine. This innovative digital solution was developed and applied as part of our Global Fund-funded initiative, at the request of the national TB program, Solovieva explained. The project aims to strengthen TB and AIDS control. Nine portable X-ray machines equipped with AI have been installed in regional TB control centers and the city hospital in Bishkek. These machines allow for faster and more accurate diagnosis of lung pathology.

In an interview with the UN News ServiceTamara Bayaliyeva, chief physician at the Bishkek City TB Hospital, described the benefits of this innovation. The equipment can be transported in an ordinary passenger car and used for immediate X-ray examinations, she said. The device is programmed to recognize changes in the lungs, including tuberculosis. Even a nurse can take an X-ray on the spot and detect potential issues. This is a significant help.

Recently, thanks to this device, two active tuberculosis cases were identified among 266 people in one region, preventing further spread. The device can examine up to 300 people per day and also identify cardiac pathologies, chronic obstructive diseases, pneumonia, and other pulmonary conditions.


Digitalization in Kyrgyzstan

The use of new technical solutions with AI is not limited to these two examples in Kyrgyzstan. According to Solovieva, the level of digitalization in the country is constantly growing. If we look at digital transformation and the digital economy in Kyrgyzstan, we see that the government has developed quite advanced systems of public service delivery, she said. We are talking about a national-level digital ecosystem.

UNDP works closely with the Ministry of Digital Development and other ministries. Digitalization affects various sectors, Solovieva explained. A systemic approach is needed to strengthen the digital system, ensuring that AI and other digital solutions can bridge the digital divide and promote inclusiveness.


Author: Anton Uspensky 

The original version is published  here