Spatial and temporal analyses of land use changes with special focus on seasonal variation in snow cover in District Chitral; a Hindu Kush mountain region of Pakistan

Related GLP Member: Muhammad Qasim, Wajid Rashid


Snow and glacier changes and increase in temperature due to climate change in Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) and its impacts are important for water resource management in the world and specifically for Pakistan, which is a water-stressed country. Being a mountainous region, the people living in HKH are highly susceptible to the adverse impacts induced by climate change. This paper therefore mainly focused on monitoring snow cover changes in district Chitral using USGS satellite images (Landsat5-TM, Landsat7-ETM+, and Landsat8-OLI) for the years 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016. The maximum likelihood method was used for Land Use Land Cover (LULC) classification. For a better understanding of the pattern of seasonal variation in snow cover over time, the total study period was distributed in four quadrennials, and the dataset for each period was taken only for early winter (Oct-Nov). A marked increase (266.7%) in the built-up area and 135.9 km2 of agriculture expansion in this remote and mountainous area is quite significant. Results of the current study showed that in the year 2000, more than half (51.6%) of the total land of District Chitral was covered with snow in early winter, but it drastically decreased to only 6.8% in the year 2008. During the first two quadrennials, 44.7% (5694.6 km2) of glaciated area exposed the barren rocks, while the overall changes in snow-cover areas are approximately 43.3% (5514.6 km2). The most significant impact of melting snow and glaciers is Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods (GLOFs). GLOFs may cause human deaths and injuries, while these are also a threat to agricultural land, forest, and residential areas. Based on the current study, it is recommended to enhance institutional capacity in the country to face different environmental hazards, including early warning systems on the local scale. Keeping in view the water stress and based agriculture-based economy of Pakistan, proper analysis and monitoring of snow should be carried out for the sack of water availability, drought or floods, and other environmental vulnerabilities.