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Historical and future land-cover changes in the Upper Ganges basin of India

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The green revolution represents one of the greatest environmental changes in India over the last century. The Upper Ganges (UG) basin is experiencing rapid rates of change of land cover and irrigation practices. In this study, we investigated the historical rate of change and created future scenario projections by means of 30 m-resolution multi-temporal Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper and Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus data of the UG basin. Post-classification change analysis methods were applied to Landsat images in order to detect and quantify land-cover changes in the UG basin. Subsequently, Markov chain analysis was applied to project future scenarios of land-cover change. Fifteen different scenarios were generated based on historic land-cover change. These scenarios diverged in terms of future projections, highlighting the dynamic nature of the changes. This study has shown that between the years 1984 and 2010 the main land-cover change trends are conversion from shrubs to forest (+4.7%), urbanization (+5.8%), agricultural expansion (+1.3%), and loss of barren land (–9.5%). The land-cover change patterns in the UG basin were mapped and quantified, showing the capability of Landsat data in providing accurate land-cover maps. These results, in combination with those derived from the Markov model, provide the necessary evidence base to support regional land-use planning and develop future-proof water resource management strategies.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, London, UK

Publication date: May 3, 2014

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