Quantifying Ground Subsidence Associated with Aquifer Overexploitation Using Space-Borne Radar Interferometry in Kabul, Afghanistan

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Published in Remote Sensing, 2020

Meldebekova, G., Yu, C., Li, Z., & Song, C.


Rapid population growth combined with recent drought events and decades of political instability have left the residents of Kabul facing water scarcity, significantly relying on groundwater. Groundwater overexploitation might have induced various magnitudes of ground subsidence, however, to date, no comprehensive study of ground subsidence in Kabul has been conducted. In this study, we investigated the spatio-temporal evolution of ground deformation phenomena and its main governing processes in Kabul from 2014 to 2019 using C-Band Sentinel-1 derived Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) time-series from both ascending and descending orbits to extract the two-dimensional (2D) surface displacement field. Four subsidence bowls were distinguished with highly variable spatial extents and deformation magnitudes over four separate aquifer basins, with the maximum value of −5.3 cm/year observed in the Upper Kabul aquifer basin. A wavelet analysis suggests that there is a strong correlation between the groundwater level variations and subsidence. Investigation of hydrogeological data further reveals that the observed subsidence could be attributed to the presence of highly compressible clayey soils. This detailed space-borne regional survey provides new insights into the main governing mechanism of land subsidence in Kabul and may direct better mitigation plans of potential hazards.

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