EGU General Assembly 2022
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the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Influence of land use and land cover change on natural flow variability: a case study of river Ramganga, India

Shivansh Shrivastava1, Suresh Gurjar2,4, Shakti Suryavanshi3, and Vinod Tare2,4
Shivansh Shrivastava et al.
  • 1Department of Infrastructure Engineering, University of Melbourne, Australia (
  • 2Center for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, India
  • 3Departmentof Civil Engineering, Sam Higgionbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences, India
  • 4Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, India

The land use and land cover (LULC) change induces hydrologic variability in a catchment and studying this variability is central to efficient water management practice in a catchment. The assessment of the alteration in hydrological processes due to LULC change and its influence on overall river ecosystem functioning is even more pertinent to developing nations that face the issue of water scarcity and pollution. In this work, we investigate the influence of the LULC change over a period of ~40 years (1970-2013) on the variability of natural or virgin flow in the Ramganga river, a major tributary of the Ganga river, India. For LULC change data, object-based image classification was performed on high-resolution satellite imageries acquired for the Ramganga river basin – CORONA (1970) and LISS IV (2013) images. The natural or virgin flows (i.e., the flow in the river without regulation practices such as construction of dams or barrages) were estimated by performing hydrological modeling using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). Initially, the SWAT model was set up, calibrated, and validated for the present flow scenario (i.e. with all management practices present) using LULC data of the year 2013. Natural flows were derived by removing all interventions and keeping agricultural practices only rain-fed. Next, keeping all parameters unchanged, the LULC data of the year 2013 was replaced by the LULC data of the year 1970. This enabled us to study the effects of LULC change on river hydrology between the period 1970-2013. The model showed good agreement between the observed and simulated flows with R2 values of 0.82 for the calibration period (2002-2014) and 0.68 for the validation period (1990-1999). The Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency values were 0.81 and 0.66 for calibration and validation periods respectively. The comparison of LULC data between the study period (1970 and 2013) reveals that land cover classes of agriculture, built-up, mixed forest, barren land, shrubs and bushes, and water areas were altered by nearly 6%, 102%, -7%, -59%, -75%, and -2% respectively (‘-’ sign indicates decrement in the land cover area). The influence of this LULC change was evident in the results from the hydrological model. For the years 2002-2013 (calibration period), the natural flows estimated using the LULC map of 2013 at the basin outlet were observed to be higher by 3-12% compared to flows estimated using the LULC input of 1970. The estimates of mean monthly flows for the years 2002-2013 at the basin outlet reveal that while the natural flows estimated using the LULC map of 2013 were higher compared to flow estimates using the LULC map of 1970 for most of the months, the flows during the dry months (May-July) were observed to be lower for the former compared to the latter. Our work provides valuable insights into hydrological variability in a major sub-basin of the Ganga river induced due to LULC changes and we advocate that alterations associated with LULC must be incorporated into water management strategies.

How to cite: Shrivastava, S., Gurjar, S., Suryavanshi, S., and Tare, V.: Influence of land use and land cover change on natural flow variability: a case study of river Ramganga, India, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-11952,, 2022.