Integrating biophysical and socioeconomic information for prioritizing watersheds in a Kashmir Himalayan lake: a remote sensing and GIS approach
Dal Lake, a cradle of Kashmiri civilization has strong linkage with socioeconomics of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. During last few decades, anthropogenic pressures in Dal Lake Catchment have caused environmental deterioration impairing, inter-alia, sustained biotic communities and water quality. The present research was an integrated impact analysis of socioeconomic and biophysical processes at the watershed level on the current status of Dal Lake using multi-sensor and multi-temporal satellite data, simulation modelling together with field data verification. Thirteen watersheds (designated as ‘W1–W13’) were identified and investigated for land use/land cover change detection, quantification of erosion and sediment loads and socioeconomic analysis (total population, total households, literacy rate and economic development status). All the data for the respective watersheds was integrated into the GIS environment based upon multi-criteria analysis and knowledge-based weightage system was adopted for watershed prioritization based on its factors and after carefully observing the field situation. The land use/land cover change detection revealed significant changes with a uniform trend of decreased vegetation and increased impervious surface cover. Increased erosion and sediment loadings were recorded for the watersheds corresponding to their changing land systems, with bare and agriculture lands being the major contributors. The prioritization analysis revealed that W5 > W2 > W6 > W8 > W1 ranked highest in priority and W13 > W3 > W4 > W11 > W7 under medium priority. W12 > W9 > W10 belonged to low-priority category. The integration of the biophysical and the socioeconomic environment at the watershed level using modern geospatial tools would be of vital importance for the conservation and management strategies of Dal Lake ecosystem.