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Impact of Urbanization on Groundwater Levels in Rawalpindi City, Pakistan


Variations in the rate of urbanization directly impact groundwater levels and quality. Therefore, the present study examines the relationship between changes in land-use and land-cover (LULC) and groundwater drawdown in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Landsat images, i.e., Operational Land Imager (OLI), Thematic Mapper (TM), and Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+), were downloaded for the years 1991, 1997, 2007, 2010, and 2017. The study area was classified using the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and normalized difference built-up index (NDBI) to create three classes, i.e., urban area, vegetation, and barren land. The groundwater level in the study area for the year 2017 was obtained using an electrical resistivity survey (ERS) with a Schlumberger configuration. The data obtained were interpreted using IX1D iteration software. The results of NDBI and NDVI showed that the urban area increased by 37.89% during the period 1991–2017, at the expense of vegetation. Similarly, the groundwater level was found to decrease at a rate of 1.38 m per annum. If the same trend prevails, the groundwater level will decrease to approximately 160 m from the natural ground surface by the end of this century. The results of the present study may be used for the formulation of policy and proper planning prior to any major developmental project to control the impact of LULC changes on water resources in the future.

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Data Availability

The groundwater data used to support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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The completion of this research work would not have been possible without the cooperation and assistance of Engr. Aziz Ullah, Deputy Director, Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA).


No funding was received to assist with the preparation of this manuscript.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by FH, UAN, HFG, NMK, IA, HR, and MAZ. This revised version of the manuscript was written by FH, IA, and MAZ, and reviewed by NMK and HFG. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ijaz Ahmad.

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ul Haq, F., Naeem, U.A., Gabriel, H.F. et al. Impact of Urbanization on Groundwater Levels in Rawalpindi City, Pakistan. Pure Appl. Geophys. 178, 491–500 (2021).

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