According to the ‘natural flow paradigm’, any departure from the natural flow condition will alter the river ecosystem. River flow regimes have been modified by anthropogenic interventions and climate change is further expected to affect the biotic interactions and the distribution of stream biota by altering streamflow. This study aims to evaluate the hydrologic alteration caused by dam construction and climatic changes in a mesoscale river basin, which is prone to both droughts and monsoonal floods. To analyse the natural flow regime, 15 years of observed streamflow (1950–1965) prior to dam construction is used. Future flow regime is simulated by a calibrated hydrological model Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), using ensemble of four high resolution (~25 km) Regional Climate Model (RCM) simulations for the near future (2021–2050) based on the SRES A1B scenario. Finally, to quantify the hydrological alterations of different flow characteristics, the Indicators of Hydrological Alteration (IHA) program based on the Range of Variability Approach (RVA) is used. This approach enables the assessment of ecologically sensitive streamflow parameters for the pre- and post-impact periods in the regions where availability of long-term ecological data is a limiting factor. Results indicate that flow variability has been significantly reduced due to dam construction with high flows being absorbed and pre-monsoon low flows being enhanced by the reservoir. Climate change alone may reduce high peak flows while a combination of dam and climate change may significantly reduce variability by affecting both high and low flows, thereby further disrupting the functioning of riverine ecosystems. We find that, in the Kangsabati River basin, influence of dam is greater than that of the climate change, thereby emphasizing the significance of direct human intervention.

Neha Mittal, Ajay Gajanan Bhave, Ashok Mishra, Rajendra Singh (2015). In: Water Resources Management.

Keep in touch with the Grantham Research Institute at LSE
Sign up to our newsletters and get the latest analysis, research, commentary and details of upcoming events.