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Assessment of groundwater depletion–induced land subsidence and characterisation of damaging cracks on houses: a case study in Mohali-Chandigarh area, India


The present study identified groundwater depletion–induced land subsidence by spaceborne differential interferometric SAR (DInSAR) technique and assessed the damaging impacts of land subsidence by characterising the cracks on houses in Mohali-Chandigarh area of India. First, we identified groundwater depletion hot spots using pre-monsoon and post-monsoon groundwater-level (GWL) data of Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), India, for the period of 2005–2018. Both conventional and advanced DInSAR techniques were used to identify temporally consistent subsiding areas and measure precise rates of subsidence in and around groundwater depletion hot spots. We studied the damaging impacts of land surface deformation by characterising the damaging cracks on houses in affected areas. Groundwater depletion and resulting aquifer-system compaction increase effective stress on confining clay layer which leads to stress build-up at the soil-structure interface and causes damaging cracks on houses. A variety of damaging cracks on houses were observed at the affected areas such as Sohana, Landran, Kharar and Kurali localities. We attempted to characterise the damaging cracks on the basis of shape, size, orientation, surface morphology and texture of the cracks; sense of ground movement; and nature of stress build-up at the interface. We identified tensional cracks, compressional cracks and shear cracks with diverse orientations and separation widths. Finally, a comparative assessment of groundwater depletion, land subsidence and damaging impacts on houses has been made. Using DInSAR technique, we identified land subsidence in and around the groundwater depletion areas in Sohana and Landran (both in Mohali City area), Kharar and Kurali (in Mohali district outside Mohali City area) and Sectors 27–28 in Chandigarh with radar line-of-sight subsidence rates of ~6–7.5 cm/year, ~5.5–6.5 cm/year, and ~ 4 cm/year respectively. We observed that the houses in and around Landran appears to be worst affected followed by Kharar, Sohana and Kurali. From this study, it appears that the type of construction of the houses, e.g. prevalence of masonry and reinforced masonry structures, is primarily responsible for the worst damaging impacts of the houses in Landran and Kurali areas besides the magnitude of land subsidence.

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GWL data were provided by CGWB, India. ALOS-1 and ALOS-2 data were available from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Japan. RADARSAT-2 data was procured from MDA Systems Ltd., Canada. Sentinel-1 data are freely downloadable from European Space Agency under Copernicus programme. Gamma, SARscape and SARProz DInSAR and PSInSAR tools were used in the study.


The study was funded by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) under the Earth Observation Application Mission (EOAM) project scheme.

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Correspondence to R. S. Chatterjee.

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Kadiyan, N., Chatterjee, R.S., Pranjal, P. et al. Assessment of groundwater depletion–induced land subsidence and characterisation of damaging cracks on houses: a case study in Mohali-Chandigarh area, India. Bull Eng Geol Environ 80, 3217–3231 (2021).

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  • Groundwater depletion
  • Land subsidence
  • DInSAR
  • Damaging cracks on houses