Date of Award

Spring 1997

Project Type


Program or Major

Earth Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Berrien Moore


Land-use and climatic changes are of major concern in the Himalayan region because of their potential impacts on a predominantly agriculture-based economy and a regional hydrology dominated by strong seasonality. Such concerns are not limited to any particular basin but exist throughout the region including the downstream plain areas. As a representative basin of the Himalayas, we studied the Kosi basin (54,000 km$\sp2)$ located in the mountainous area of the central Himalayan region. We analyzed climatic and hydrologic information to assess the impacts of existing and potential future land-use and climatic changes over the basin.

The assessment of anthropogenic inputs showed that the population grew at a compound growth rate of about one percent per annum over the basin during the last four decades. The comparison of land-use data based on the surveys made in the 1960s, and the surveys of 1978-79 did not reveal noticeable trends in land-use change. Analysis of meteorological and hydrological trends using parametric and nonparametric statistics for monthly data from 1947 to 1993 showed some increasing tendency for temperature and precipitation. Statistical tests of hydrological trends indicated an overall decrease of discharge along mainstem Kosi River and its major tributaries. The decreasing trends of streamflow were more significant during low-flow months. Statistical analysis of homogeneity showed that the climatological as well as the hydrological trends were more localized in nature lacking distinct basinwide significance. Statistical analysis of annual sediment time series, available for a single station on the Kosi River did not reveal a significant trend.

We used water balance, statistical correlation, and distributed deterministic modeling approaches to analyze the hydrological sensitivity of the basin to possible land-use and climatic changes. The results indicated a stronger influence of basin characteristics compared to climatic characteristics on flow regime. Among the climatic variables, hydrologic response was much more sensitive to changes in precipitation, and the response was more significant in the drier areas of the basin. Rapid retreat of glaciers due to potential global warming was shown to be as important as projected deforestation scenarios in regulating sediment flux over the basin.