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Application of remote sensing and GIS in environmental monitoring in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region

Finu Shrestha Kabir Uddin Sudan Bikash Maharjan Samjwal Ratna Bajracharya

*Corresponding author: Finu Shrestha finu.shrestha@icimod.org

environmental2016,4,646doi:10.3934/environsci.2016.4.646

The Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region encompasses the largest mountain system in the world extending from Myanmar in the East to Afghanistan in the West and covering the whole or part of Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The region plays a vital role in providing ecosystem services and is the basis of the livelihoods of over 200 million people. The water and other ecosystem services provided by the HKH forms lifeline for one third of humanity. In the past few decades, human activities and global warming have contributed to environmental degradation in significant portion of the region. Decreasing glacier area, growth in glacial lake size, unprecedented rainfall, changes in land use and land cover, forest degradation, floods and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), landslides, and shortfalls in agricultural crop production are among the many problems brought on by such change. These issues need timely monitoring and supervision if they are to lead to a better understanding of the state of the environment, and the scale of the damages that has already been done. Effective monitoring of the environment, and an improved understanding of the same requires valuable information and data that can be extracted through the application of geospatial technologies such as remote sensing (RS) and geographic information system (GIS). This paper provides an overview of such research conducted in the HKH region. It shows how change assessment has been undertaken in thematic areas such as glacier, glacial lake, land use, land cover, and disaster events like floods, landslides and droughts and how sets of data collected over specific intervals of time are being used to identify and monitor the condition of the environment from the past to the present, and in the long run. Complete database sets and analyses pertaining to these areas are made available online to facilitate access to information. Data formulation and further research are necessary to reduce scientific uncertainty and understand the impacts induced by climate change in the HKH. Scientific analyse made during each individual study can be used by decision makers and planners in environmental protection planning and development.

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