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Urban Expansion Occurred at the Expense of Agricultural Lands in the Tarai Region of Nepal from 1989 to 2016

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The State Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Science, Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), No. 20 Datun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100101, China
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Key Laboratory of Oasis Eco-Agriculture, Xinjiang Production and Construction Group, Shihezi University, 221 N 4th Road, Shihezi City 832003, Xinjiang, China
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Environmental Future Research Institute, School of Environment and Science, Nathan Campus, Nathan, Griffith University, 170, Kessels Road, Nathan, QLD 4111, Australia
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College of Science and Engineering, Center for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, James Cook University, Cairns, QLD 4870, Australia
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Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Mahendra Ratna Multiple Campus, Ilam 57300, Nepal
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2018, 10(5), 1341; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10051341
Received: 8 March 2018 / Revised: 16 April 2018 / Accepted: 22 April 2018 / Published: 26 April 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Sustainable Urban and Rural Development)
Recent rapid urbanization in developing countries presents challenges for sustainable environmental planning and peri-urban cropland management. An improved understanding of the timing and pattern of urbanization is needed to determine how to better plan urbanization for the near future. Here, we describe the spatio-temporal patterns of urbanization and related land-use/land-cover (LULC) changes in the Tarai region of Nepal, as well as discuss the factors underlying its rapid urban expansion. Analyses are based on regional time-series Landsat 5, 7 and 8 image classifications for six years between 1989 and 2016, representing the first long-term observations of their kind for Nepal. During this 27-year period, gains in urban cover and losses of cultivated lands occurred widely. Urban cover occupied 221.1 km2 in 1989 and increased 320% by 2016 to a total 930.22 km2. Cultivated land was the primary source of new urban cover. Of the new urban cover added since 1989, 93% was formerly cultivated. Urban expansion occurred at moderately exponential rates over consecutive observation periods, with nearly half of all urban expansion occurring during 2006–2011 (305 km2). The annual rate of urban growth during 1989–1996 averaged 3.3% but reached as high as 8.09% and 12.61% during 1996–2001 and 2011–2016, respectively. At the district level, the rate of urban growth and, by extension, agricultural loss, were weakly related to total population growth. Variability in this relationship suggests that concerted urban-growth management may reduce losses of agricultural lands relative to historic trends despite further population growth and urbanization. Urbanization and LULC change in the Tarai region are attributable to significant inter-regional migration in a context of poor urban planning and lax policies controlling the conversion and fragmentation of peri-urban cultivated lands. Urban expansion and farmland loss are expected to continue in the future. View Full-Text
Keywords: Land-use/land cover; urbanization; remote sensing; Tarai; Nepal Land-use/land cover; urbanization; remote sensing; Tarai; Nepal
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MDPI and ACS Style

Rimal, B.; Zhang, L.; Stork, N.; Sloan, S.; Rijal, S. Urban Expansion Occurred at the Expense of Agricultural Lands in the Tarai Region of Nepal from 1989 to 2016. Sustainability 2018, 10, 1341.

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