Changes in rainfall and land use/land cover (LULC) can influence river discharge from a catchment in many ways. Homogenized river discharge data from three stations and average rainfall records, interpolated from 13 stations, were examined for long-term trends and decadal variations (1970–2017) in the headwater, upper and middle catchments of the Bagmati River. LULC changes over five decades were quantified using multitemporal Landsat images. Mann–Kendall tests on annual time series showed a significant decrease in river discharge (0.61% per year) from the entire Bagmati catchment, although the decrease in rainfall was statistically insignificant. However, declines in river discharge and rainfall were both significant in upper catchment. Decadal departures from long-term means support these trend results. Over tenfold growth in urban area and a decrease in agricultural land were observed in the upper catchment, while forest cover slightly increased in the entire catchment between 1975 and 2015. Correlation analysis showed a strong association between surface runoff, estimated using the curve number method, observed river discharge and rainfall in the upper catchment, while the relationship was weaker in the headwater catchment. These results were also supported by multiple regression analysis, suggesting that human activities together with climate change have contributed to river discharge changes in the Bagmati catchment.
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