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Decadal land use dynamics of upper catchment of Narmada: 1980 – 2018

~ by Amrita Neelakantan

The Narmada river has shaped much of the central Indian landscape. It is also known as “Life Line of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat” with its invaluable contribution to the two states in many quantifiable and unquantifiable ways providing water for the heart of India and all of the people and wild places that it flows through. The Narmada starts from the Amarkantak plateau in Anuppur district of Madhya Pradesh and flows westwards over a length of 1,312 km before draining into the Arabian sea. Bordered by the Vindhya and Satpura ranges, the Narmada is one of three major rivers flowing from the east to the west. More on the river basin – here.

Source: PhotoMap

A recent study by Prof. Tarun Kumar Thakur (from the Department of Environmental Science at the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University in Amarkantak) and collaborators uses satellite imagery to look at decadal changes in land use within the upper catchment of the Narmada river. The study strongly suggests planners of urbanizing areas utilize spatial information from satellites to conduct similar studies to manage water resources in the face of climate change related struggles ahead. As is now common knowledge, water will be one of the main resources we will have to manage to the best of our abilities given uncertainty in monsoon rainfall and growing urban centres in central India. An important consideration is that the Narmada and its tributaries such as Gayatri, Savitri, Kapila, Baitarini, Arandi emerging from Amarkantak region are all are fed by rain water. In years with ample rainfall there is a consequent positively correlation to the flow in these rivers. The Maikal range where these tributaries and the Narmada originate are under tremendous anthropogenic stress – indicators of which are clear in the changing land use and land cover dynamics as described for the Narmada catchment in this study. 

The authors showcase the growing built-up open areas and the diminishing forests in the catchment with the suggestion that continuing development in the region might be guided by eco-restoration strategies as an essential way forward. They flag that the lack of monitoring and science backed planning for manage these areas crucial to flowing water downstream can be devastating for all those dependent on the river. The authors also address the ecological importance of the upper zone of the Narmada. According to the authors their study reveals the shrinking forest cover and degradation in forest health over the years due to anthropogenic stress factors. They list these factors from ground truthing data and the inferences from NDVI analyses to be – increase in commercial zones, utilization of river water for irrigation purposes, agricultural run-off, industrial effluents, domestic exploitation of water resources, municipal sewage and sludge mixing with flowing water are the major factors behind the degradation of forest health. Geomorphic analysis in this study explores the level of vulnerability of the Narmada catchment area and tributaries. Authors conclude that the relief ratio, ruggedness number and visual interpretation of the DEM of the study area are indicative of extensive erosion. They suggest sustainability planners also use the spatial information processing tools at hand much like the analysis already undertaken effectively of basin area development and management. An interesting outcome of the data collection from the study is the list of 157 species of vegetation utilized by people in the catchment area who are largely vulnerable tribes. The authors suggest that local communities involvement and active participation will be key to manage overexploitation of the catchment area of the Narmada river in central India. Original Paper: Thakur, T. K., Patel, D. K., Dutta, J., Kumar, A., Kaushik, S., Bijalwan, A., Fnais, M. S., Abdelrahman, K., & Javed Ansari, M. (2021). Assessment of decadal land use dynamics of upper catchment area of Narmada River, the lifeline of Central India. Journal of King Saud University – Science, 33(2), 101322.

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