This study aims to evaluate the climate- and human-induced impacts on two contrasting river basins in India, specifically, the Ganges and the Godavari. Monthly discharge simulations from global hydrological models (GHMs), run with and without human influence using CMIP5 projections under the framework of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project, are utilized to address the scientific questions related to the quantification of the future impacts of climate change and the historical impacts of human activities on these river basins. The five state-of-the-art GHMs were considered and subsequently used to evaluate the human and climate change impacts on river discharges (seasonal mean discharge and extreme flows) during the pre-monsoon, monsoon, and post-monsoon seasons under the RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 emission scenarios. Results showed that human impacts during the baseline period on long-term seasonal discharge in the Ganges and Godavari River basins for the pre-monsoon season are around 40% and 23%, respectively, and these impacts are stronger than the future climate change impact in the pre-monsoon season for the Ganges basin, whereas, for the Godavari basin, the same pattern is observed with some exceptions. The human impact in the course of the historical period on the pre-monsoon flows of both the Ganges and the Godavari are more significant than on the monsoon and post-monsoon flows. In the near future (2010–39) time slice, the impact of climate change on the streamflow of the Ganges is highest for the post-monsoon season (13.4%) under RCP 8.5 as compared to other seasons. For Godavari, in the near-future period, this impact is highest for the pre-monsoon season (18.2%) under RCP 2.6. Climate-induced changes in both of the basins during both the monsoon and post-monsoon seasons is observed to have a higher impact on future flows than direct human impact-induced changes to flow during the current period. High flows (31.4% and 19.9%) and low flows (51.2% and 36.8%) gain greater influence due to anthropogenic actions in the time of the pre-monsoon season compared to other times of year for the Ganges and Godavari basins, respectively. High flows for the Ganges during the near future time slice are most affected in the monsoon season (15.8%) under RCP 8.5 and, in the case of the Godavari, in the pre-monsoon season (18.4%) under the RCP 2.6 scenario. Low flows of the Ganges during the near-future period are most affected during the monsoon season (22.3%) and for the Godavari, low flows are affected most for the post-monsoon season (22.1%) under RCP 2.6. Uncertainty in the streamflow estimates is more pronounced for the Godavari basin compared to the Ganges basin. The findings of this study enhance our understanding of the natural and human-influenced flow regimes in these river basins, which helps the formation of future strategies, especially for inter-state and transboundary river management.
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