Articles | Volume 22, issue 9
Research article
11 Sep 2018
Research article |  | 11 Sep 2018

Population growth, land use and land cover transformations, and water quality nexus in the Upper Ganga River basin

Anoop Kumar Shukla, Chandra Shekhar Prasad Ojha, Ana Mijic, Wouter Buytaert, Shray Pathak, Rahul Dev Garg, and Satyavati Shukla

Abstract. The Upper Ganga River basin is socioeconomically the most important river basin in India and is highly stressed in terms of water resources due to uncontrolled land use and land cover (LULC) activities. This study presents a comprehensive set of analyses to evaluate the population growth, LULC transformations, and water quality nexus for sustainable development in this river basin. The study was conducted at two spatial scales: basin scale and district scale. First, population data were analyzed statistically to study demographic changes, followed by LULC change detection over the period of February–March 2001 to 2012 (Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) data) using remote sensing and geographical information system (GIS) techniques. Trends and spatiotemporal variations in monthly water quality parameters, viz. biological oxygen demand (BOD), dissolved oxygen (DO, measured in percentage), fluoride (F), hardness (CaCO3), pH, total coliform bacteria and turbidity, were studied using the Mann–Kendall rank test and an overall index of pollution (OIP) developed specifically for this region, respectively. A relationship was deciphered between LULC classes and OIP using multivariate techniques, viz. Pearson's correlation and multiple linear regression. From the results, it was observed that population has increased in the river basin. Therefore, significant and characteristic LULC changes were observed. The river became polluted in both rural and urban areas. In rural areas, pollution is due to agricultural practices, mainly fertilizers, whereas in urban areas it is mainly contributed from domestic and industrial wastes. Water quality degradation has occurred in the river basin, and consequently the health status of the river has also changed from acceptable to slightly polluted in urban areas. Multiple linear regression models developed for the Upper Ganga River basin could successfully predict status of the water quality, i.e., OIP, using LULC classes.

Short summary
Geospatial technologies and OIP are promising tools to study the effect of demographic changes and LULC transformations on the spatiotemporal variations in the water quality (WQ) across a large river basin. Therefore, this study could help to assess and solve local and regional WQ-related problems over a river basin. It may help the policy makers and planners to understand the status of water pollution so that suitable strategies could be planned for sustainable development in a river basin.