Change in Land Cover and Land Use (LCLU) influences the runoff characteristics of a drainage basin to a large extent, which in turn, affects the surface and groundwater availability of the area, and hence leads to further change in LCLU. This forms a vicious circle. Hence it becomes essential to assess the effect of change in LCLU on the runoff characteristics of a region in general and of small watershed levels (sub-basin levels) in particular. Such an analysis can effectively be carried out by using watershed simulation models with integrated GIS frame work. SWAT (Soil and Water Analysis Tool) model, being one of the versatile watershed simulation models, is found to be suitable for this purpose as many GIS integration modules are available for this model (e.g. ArcSWAT, MWSWAT). Watershed simulation using SWAT requires the land use and land cover data, soil data and many other features. With the availability of repository of satellite imageries, both from Indian and foreign sources, it becomes possible to use the concurrent local land use and land cover data, thereby enabling more accurate modelling of small watersheds. Such availability will also enable us to assess the effect of LCLU on runoff characteristics and their reverse impact. The current study assesses the effect of land use and land cover on the runoff characteristics of two watersheds in Kerala, India. It also assesses how the change in land use and land cover in the last few decades affected the runoff characteristics of these watersheds. It is seen that the reduction in the forest area amounts to 60% and 32% in the analysed watersheds. However, the changes in the surface runoff for these watersheds are not comparable with the changes in the forest area but are within 20%. Similarly the maximum (peak) value of runoff has increased by an amount of 15% only. The lesser (aforementioned) effect than expected might be due to the fact that forest has been converted to agricultural purpose with major portion as plantations which have comparatively similar characteristics of the forest except for evapo-transpiration. The double sided action (increase in evapo-transpiration owing to species like rubber and increase percolation due to its plantation method by using terracing) might be the reason for relatively smaller effect of the land use change, not commensurate with the changes in the forest area amounting to 60% and 32% for Manali and Kurumali watersheds respectively. Water harvesting methods like rain harvesting ditches can be made mandatory where species with high evapo-transpiration are grown. This action shall enhance the groundwater percolation and shall counter act the effect due to high evapo-transpiration.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Sep 15, 2015
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