Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 2012, 4, 1042-1050 Published Online December 2012 (
Geomorphometric Characterization of Upper South Koel
Basin, Jharkhand: A Remote Sensing & GIS Approach
Reshma Parveen1*, Uday Kumar1, Vivek Kumar Singh2
1Department of Geology, Ranchi University, Ranchi, India
2Department of Geology & Mining, CIAL, Abhijeet Group, Nagpur, India
Email: *,,
Received September 28, 2012; revised November 1, 2012; accepted November 10, 2012
The quantitative analysis of drainage system is an important aspect of characterization of watersheds. Morphometry is
measurement and mathematical analysis of landforms. The present study is an attempt to evaluate the drainage mor-
phometrics of Upper South Koel Basin using Remote Sensing and GIS approach. A morphometric analysis was carried
out to describe the topography and drainage characteristics of Upper South Koel watershed. The stream numbers, orders,
lengths and other morphometric parameters like bifurcation ratio, drainage density, stream frequency, shape parameters
etc. were measured. The drainage area of Upper South Koel watershed is 942.4 sq km and the drainage pattern is den-
tritic. The watershed was classified as 6th order drainage basin. The low values of bifurcation ratio and drainage density
suggest that the area has not been much affected by structural disturbances. The study reveals that the different geo-
morphic units in the study area i.e. Structural hills, Pediments, Valley fills, Pediplains formed under the influence of
permeable geology, are moderate to nearly level plains, with medium to low drainage density (<2.0) & low cumulative
length of higher order streams . Such studies can be of immense help in planning and management of river basins.
Keywords: Morphometry; Watershed; Remote Sensing; GIS
1. Introduction
River basins comprise a distinct morphologic region and
have special relevance to drainage pattern and geomor-
phology [1,2]. The total development of a region is a sum
total development of sub basins of which it is composed.
So by analyzing the development of each of the sub ba-
sins one can have a better understanding of the landscape
of the terrain. This is possible only when relationship
among the forms of individual drainage basins and proc-
ess at work within them that led to development of a ba-
sin as a whole is established.
Prior to 1945 such studies were concentrated on quail-
tative and deductive aspects. A new era of quantitative
analysis was initiated by Horton in 1945 who first ap-
plied the technique of quantitative analysis of drainage
basins. Morphometric analysis involves evaluation of
streams through the measurement of various stream prop-
erties, analysis of various drainage parameters namely
ordering of the various streams and measurement of area
of basin, perimeter of basin, length of drainage channels,
drainage density (Dd), drainage frequency, bifurcation
ratio (Rb), texture ratio (T), circulatory ratio (Rc), basin
relief (Bh) and length of overland flow (Lg) to predict the
approximate behavior of the watersheds during periods
of heavy rainfall [3,4]. Surface drainage characteristics of
many river basins and sub basins in different parts of the
globe have been studied using conventional methods
[5-10]. The present study describes the capabilities of
Remote Sensing and GIS to study the drainage charac-
teristics of Upper South Koel river basin in order to un-
derstand their hydrological behavior.
2. Study Area
The watershed is a part of South Koel basin with an area
of 942.4 sq km bounded by latitude 23˚17'16''N &
23˚32'16''N and longitude 84˚14'15''E & 85˚46'51''E
(Figure 1). It lies in SOI topo sheet no 73 A/14, 73 A/15,
73 E/2, 73 E/3 covering Lohardaga and Ranchi districts
of Jharkhand. South Koel is the main river in the study
area with Kandani and Saphi River as its major tributary-
ies. The drainage pattern is mainly dendritic. The climate
of the area is subtropical. The annual rainfall in the re-
gion is 1400 mm, on an average of which 82.1% is re-
ceived during the periods June to September and the rest
17.9% in remaining months. Temperature is lowest dur-
ing December and January with mean minimum of 9˚C
and highest during April and May with mean maximum
f 37.2˚C. o
*Corresponding author.
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Jin gi
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Settle ment Locatio ns
Major River
Stream s
Projection-UTM,Spheroid/Dat um-WG S 84
Upper South Koel Watershed
Figure 1. Location map of study area.
3. Lithology & Structure
Stream processes in any terrain are not only controlled by
climatic conditions, but also the lithology and geologic
structure have great control as they influence the nature
of flow, erosion and sediment transportation. Geologi-
cally the oldest rocks encountered in the area are unclas-
sified metamorphic represented by Mica Schist, Horn-
blende schist and amphibolites which form the basement
rocks in the study area. The overlying Chotanagpur
Gneissic complex comprising Granite Gneiss forms the
most widespread outcrop in the study area. Laterite, Me-
tabasic dykes and recent alluvial deposits are other rock
types encountered in the area.
Structures are linear geomorphic features that are the
surface expression of zones of weakness or structural
displacement in the crust of the earth and have an impor-
tant role to play in development of drainage network of
the region. The area has experienced structural distur-
bances leading to development of well marked set of
joints and fractures. The main fractures/joints are along
NE-SW, N-S, E-W, NW-SE direction. A fault trending
N70˚W - S70˚E has also been traced in the area. Figure
2 shows the geological map of the study area.
4. Hydrogeology
The study area is having varied hydro-geological charac-
teristics due to which ground water potential differs from
one region to another. Two types of aquifers are found.
Weathered aquifer and fractured aquifers. In weathered
aquifer ground water occurs in unconfined condition
while in fractured aquifer ground water occurs in semi
confined to confined condition. Thickness of weathered
aquifers varies from 10 - 25 m in granite terrain and 30 -
60 m in lateritic terrain. In fractured aquifers, first frac-
ture occurs between 50 - 70 m, second fracture occurs
between 100 - 120 m and third set of fracture can be
found between 150 - 200 m bgl depth.
5. Methodology
Drainage networks and other baseline information of the
watershed were prepared from the Survey of India to-
posheets on 1:50,000 scale and were further updated us-
ing satellite data. IRS - P6 LISS IV data of study area
co-registered to Survey of India toposheet was used for
the updation. ASTER 30 m DEM was also used for the
study. Using the DEM slope map of the watershed was
In GIS the channel segments were ordered numerically
as order number 1 from a stream’s headwaters to a point
downstream. The stream segment that results from the
joining of two first order streams was assigned order 2
and so on. Watershed parameters, such as: Basin area (A),
Basin perimeter (P), Basin length (Lb), Stream length (L),
and Stream order (N) were calculated. These parameters
were used to determine other influencing factors, such as
Bifurcation ratio, Stream frequency, Drainage density,
Texture ratio, Basin relief, elongation ratio, circulatory
ratio, form factor and Length of Overland flow. Table 1
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Hornblende Schist
& Amphibolite
Leg end
Granite Gneiss
Metabasic Dyke
Schis t
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Figure 2. Geological map of study area.
Table 1. Morphometric parameters and their mathematical expressions.
Sl. No. Parameters Formulae Reference Description
1 Stream Order (U) Hierarchical Rank Strahler (1964)
2 Cumulative Length of
Streams (L) L = Nu Horton (1945)
L was calculated as the number of streams in each
order and total length of each order was computed at
sub basin level.
3 Bifurcation Ratio (Rb) Rb = Nu/(Nu + 1) Schumm (1956)
Rb was computed as the ratio between the number of
streams of any given order to the number of streams
in the next higher order.
4 Basin Relief (Bh) Bh = hmax – hmin Hadley and Schumm
Bh was defined as the maximum vertical distance
between the lowest and the highest points
of a sub basin.
5 Drainage Density (Dd) Dd = L/A Horton (1945) Dd was measured as the length of stream channel per
unit area of drainage basin.
6 Stream Frequency (Fu) Fu = N/A Horton (1945) Fu was computed as the ratio between the total
number of streams and area of the basin.
7 Texture Ratio (T) T = Dd × Fu Smith (1950)
T was estimated as the product of drainage density
and stream frequency.
8 Form Factor (Rf) Rf = A/(Lb)2 Horton (1945)
Rf was computed as the ratio between the basin area
and square of the basin length.
9 Elongation Ratio (Re) b
Re2 LA π Miller (1953)
Re was computed as the ratio between the diameter of
the circle having the same area as that of basin
to the basin length.
10 Circulatory Ratio (Rc) R
c = 4πA/P2 Strahler (1964)
Rc is defined as the area of the basin to the area of a
circle having the same circumference as the perimeter
of the basin.
11 Length of Overland Flow
(Lo ) C = 1/2x1/Dd Horton (1945) Lo is expressed as half of reciprocal of
drainage density.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
provides a list of the main parameters with their descrip-
tion and the formulae used to calculate them.
6. Result and Discussion
The total drainage area of Upper South Koel watershed is
942.40 sq km and has been divided into four sub basins
based on water divide concept for morphometric analysis
(Figure 3) .The development of drainage network in a
region is dependent on the lithology, structure, topogra-
phy, rainfall apart from endogenetic and exogenic influ-
ences. The drainage is mainly dentritic. Based on drain-
age order, the watershed has been classified as sixth or-
der basin.
Morphometric analysis of drainage network developed
in the study area can help a lot in understanding the geo-
morphic processes and hydrological characteristic of the
watersheds under study. The linear, relief and areal as-
pects of the watershed and sub-basins have been ana-
lyzed to understand the morphometrics of the basin.
6.1. Linear Aspects
Computation of the linear aspects such as stream order,
stream number for various orders, bifurcation ratio,
stream lengths for various stream orders and length ratio
are described below. The linear aspect computations of
the basin and the sub-basins are presented in Tables 2(a)
and (b).
6.1.1. S t ream Number (Nu)
It is obvious that the total number of streams gradually
decreases as the stream order increases. With the appli-
cation of GIS, the number of streams of each order and
the total number of streams was computed.
6.1.2. S tr eam Order (U)
Stream ordering was done based on the method proposed
by Strahler [7].The streams with no tributaries are desig-
nated as order 1. These channels normally flow only dur-
ing wet conditions. The second order streams are those
having first order streams as its tributaries. When two
second order streams join they give rise to third or- der
streams and so on. When streams of different orders join,
they give rise to a stream having higher value among the
Application of this ordering procedure through GIS
shows that the drainage network of the study area is of
sixth order. Among the sub-basins, sub-basin I is of sixth
order whereas sub-basin II, sub-basin III and sub-basin
IV are of fifth order.
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1 Ord er
2 Ord er
3 Ord er
4 Ord er
5 Ord er
6 Ord er
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Figure 3. Drainage and sub basin map of study are a.
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Table 2. (a) Linear aspects of the Upper South Koel Basi n; (b) Linear aspects of the Upper South Koel Basin.
(in km)
(in sq km) Stream Numbers in Different Orders Order Wise Total Length of Streams (in km)
N1 N2 N3N4N5N6TotalN1 N2 N3 N4 N5 N6Total
Sub-Basin I 74.31 234.9 199 91 3923 46398149.6476.1328.62 13.1 29.52297.01
Sub-Basin II 80.78 290.25 177 86 471945 374180.7478.3441.15 14.19 20.22 334.64
Sub-Basin III 56.68 175.78 152 69 193720 297121.0949.9514.51 24.57 14.35 224.52
Sub-Basin IV 67.09 240.24 136 69 321814 269138.4259.2727.22 13.15 12.46 250.52
Upper South
Koel 138.42 941.17 664 315 1379779461338589.89263.69111.5 65.01 47.03 29.521106.64
Sub-Basin Mean Stream Length Stream Length Ratio(RL) Bifurcation Ratio (Rb)
N1 N2 N3N4 N5 N6Total2/13/2 4/3 5/4 6/5 1/2 2/3 3/4 4/5 5/6Mean
Sub-Basin I 0.75 0.84 0.73 0.57 0.64 3.531.120.860.78 2.89 2.33 1.69 1.38
Sub-Basin II 1.02 0.91 0.860.75 0.45 3.990.890.940.870.6 2.05 1.83 2.47 0.42 1.35
Sub-Basin III 0.8 0.72 0.760.66 0.72 3.660.91.050.871.09 2.20 3.63 0.51 1.85 1.64
Sub-Basin IV 1.02 0.86 0.850.73 0.89 4.350.840.990.861.22 1.97 2.15 1.78 1.28 1.44
Upper South
Koel 0.88 0.84 0.81 0.67 0.6 0.644.44 0.950.960.83 0.89 1.07 2.11 2.29 1.41 1.23 1.721.75
6.1.3. Stream Length (L)
Stream length is defined as the total length of all streams
of each order in the drainage basin. Strahler [7] sug-
gested that the stream length of a particular order is in-
versely proportional to the stream order i.e. length of
stream decreases with increase in stream order. Sub-ba-
sin II has highest cumulative length of streams whereas
Sub-Basin I has lowest cumulative length of streams.
6.1.4. Mean Stream Length ( Lsm)
Mean stream length is a characteristic property related to
the drainage network components and its associated ba-
sin surfaces [7]. Generally, cumulative length of stream
of a particular order is measured and the mean length of
that order is obtained by dividing the cumulative stream
length by number of segments of that order.
The mean stream length in the watershed varies from
0.60 to 0.88. The mean stream length of any given order
is greater than that of the lower order and lesser than that
of its next higher order. It is observed that in the water-
shed, mean stream length decreases with increase in
stream order. Such anonymity might be due to variations
in slope and topography.
6.1.5. Stream Lengt h Ratio (RL)
Stream length ratio is the ratio of the mean length of the
one order to the next lower order of the stream segments,
which tends to be constant throughout the successive
orders of a basin [5]. The stream length ratio between
streams of different order in the study area shows varia-
tion. The stream length ratio in the watershed varies be-
tween 0.82 - 1.15. This variation might be attributed to
variation in slope and topography, indicating the late
youth stage of geomorphic development in the streams of
the study area [11].
6.1.6. Bifurcation Ratio (Rb)
According to Schumm [12], the term bifurcation ratio
may be defined as the ratio of the number of the stream
segments of given order to the number of segments of the
next higher orders. The bifurcation ratio in the watershed
varies between 1.41 - 2.29. The low bifurcation values
are indicative of less structural complexity which in turn
has not distorted the drainage pattern of the basin [7].
6.2. Areal Aspects
The aerial aspects of the drainage basin such as drainage
density (Dd), stream frequency (Fs), texture ratio (T),
elongation ratio (Re), circularity ratio (Rc) and form fac-
tor ratio (Rf), Length of Overland ratio (Lo) were calcu-
lated and results have been given in Table 3
6.2.1. Drainage Density (Dd)
Drainage Density is defined as the total length of streams
of all orders per drainage area. It is the measure of close-
ess of spacing of channels. Slope gradient and relative n
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Table 3. Areal aspects of Upper South Koel Basin.
Basin/Sub-Basin Drainage
Ratio Circulatory
Ratio Form
Length of
Sub-Basin I 1.26 1.69 2.13 0.74 0.53 0.43 0.40
Sub-Basin II 1.15 1.29 1.48 0.72 0.56 0.40 0.44
Sub-Basin III 1.28 1.70 2.18 0.75 0.69 0.44 0.39
Sub-Basin IV 1.04 1.12 1.16 0.96 0.67 0.73 0.48
Upper South Koel 1.17 1.42 1.66 0.71 0.62 0.39 0.43
relief are the main morphological factors controlling
drainage density. Low density leads to coarse drainage
texture while high drainage density leads to fine drainage
texture. Drainage Density depends on annual rainfall,
infiltration capacity of rocks, vegetation cover, surface
roughness and run-off intensity. Low drainage density is
favoured in regions of highly resistant and permeable
subsoil and low relief. High Drainage density on the
other hand is favoured in regions of impermeable rocks;
high relief. The Drainage Density for the whole basin is
1.17 km/km2 indicating that the basin is not much af-
fected by structural disturbances. The drainage density of
the four sub-basins is given in Table 3.
6.2.2. S tr eam Frequency (Fu)
The total number of stream segments of all orders per
unit area is known as stream frequency [13]. Stream fre-
quency exhibits a positive correlation with drainage den-
sity suggesting an increase in stream population with in-
creasing drainage density. It mainly depends on the
lithology of the basin and reflects the texture of the
drainage network.
The stream frequency for the whole watershed is 1.42
km/km2 indicating low relief and permeable sub surface
material. The Fu for the sub-basins is given in Table 3.
6.2.3. Texture Ratio (T)
Drainage texture is one of the important concepts of geo-
morphology which means the relative spacing of drain-
age lines. The drainage texture (T) depends upon a num-
ber of natural factors such as climate, rainfall, vegetation,
rock and soil type, infiltration capacity, relief and stage
of development [14]. Drainage lines are numerous over
impermeable areas than permeable areas. According to
Smith [14], T is the product of drainage density and
stream frequency and has classified drainage texture into
five different textures. The drainage texture less than 2
indicates very coarse, between 2 and 4 is related to
coarse, between 4 and 6 is moderate, between 6 and 8 is
fine and greater than 8 is very fine drainage texture.
The drainage texture for the whole watershed is 1.66
indicating very coarse texture. T values of sub-basins are
given in Table 3.
6.2.4. Fo rm Factor (R f)
Form Factor is defined as the ratio of the basin area to
the square of the basin length. Horton [5] proposed this
parameter to predict the flow intensity of a basin of a
defined area. The value of form factor would always be
greater than 0.78 for a perfectly circular basin. Smaller
the value of form factor, more elongated will be the basin.
Basins with high-form factors experience larger peak
flows of shorter duration, whereas elongated watersheds
having low-form factors experience lower peak flows of
longer duration.
The Rf of the whole basin is 0.39 indicating that the
watershed is an elongated one and experience low peak
flows for long duration. The Rf of the sub-basins is given
in Table 3.
6.2.5. Elongation Ratio (Re)
Schumn [12] defined elongation ratio as the ratio be-
tween the diameter of the circle of the same area as the
drainage basin and the maximum length of the basin. The
discharge characteristics of any watershed are controlled
by the elongation ratio. Elongation ratio also determines
the shape of the watershed and can be classified based on
these values as circular (0.9 - 1), oval (0.8 - 0.9), less
elongated (0.7 - 0.8), elongated (0.5 - 0.7), more elon-
gated (<0.5). Regions with low elongation ratio values
are susceptible to more erosion whereas regions with
high values correspond to high infiltration capacity and
low runoff. The elongation ratio of the watershed is 0.71
indicating that the basin is less elongated and less prone
to erosion. The Re values of the sub-basins are given in
Table 3.
6.2.6. Ci rc ulatory Ratio (Rc)
Circularity ratio is defined as the ratio of watershed area
to the area of a circle having the same perimeter as the
watershed. Circulatory ratio is influenced by the length
and frequency of streams, geological structures, land
use/land cover, climate, relief and slope of the basin.
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Rc values approaching 1 indicates that the basin shapes
are like circular and as a result, it gets scope for uniform
infiltration and takes long time to reach excess water at
basin outlet. The Rc of the whole basin is 0.62, while
those of the 5 sub-basins are shown in Table 3. It is a
significant ratio, which indicates the dentritic stage of a
6.2.7. Length of Overland Flow (Lo)
It is the length of water over the ground before it gets
concentrated into definite stream channels. Length of
overland flow is one of the most important independent
variables affecting hydrologic and physiographic devel-
opment of drainage basin. The average length of over-
land flow is approximately half the average distance be-
tween stream channels and is therefore approximately
equals to half of reciprocal of drainage density (Horton,
1945). Higher value of Lo is indicative of low relief and
where as low value of Lo is an indicative of high relief.
The length of overland flow value for the watershed is
6.3. Relief Aspects
6.3.1. Rel i e f
Strahler [6] described the basin relief as the maximum
vertical difference between the highest and lowest eleva-
tion within the basin. Basin Relief plays a significant role
in landforms development, drainage development, sur-
face and subsurface water flow, permeability and ero-
sional properties of the terrain. The relative basin relief is
80 m. The sub-basin relative relief values are given in
Table 4.
6.3.2. Relief Rati o
The maximum relief to horizontal distance along the
longest dimension of the basin parallel to the principal
drainage line is termed as relief ratio [12]. It is the ratio
of basin relief to basin length. While high values are
characteristic of hill regions low values are characteristic
of pediplains and valley. The relief ratio of the watershed
is 0.002 while those of the sub-basins are given in Table
4. The lower values may indicate the presence of base-
ment rocks that are exposed in the form of small ridges
and mounds with lower degree of slope [15]. Low relief
ratios also indicate that the discharge capabilities of the
watershed are low and chances of groundwater potential
are good.
6.3.3. Sl ope
Slope is an important parameter in geomorphic studies.
An understanding of slope distribution is essential as it
plays a significant role in determining infiltration vs.
runoff relation. Infiltration is inversely related to slope i.e.
gentler is the slope, higher is infiltration and less is run-
off and vice-versa.
The average elevation of the area varies between 640
m to 925 m. Slope analysis showed that slope in the
study area varies from 0 to 21˚ with mean slope of 0.66˚
and slope standard deviation of 1.37˚. High slope is wit-
nessed in the north western part of the watershed. Figure
4 shows the slope map of the watershed.
7. Drainage Morphometry and Its Influence
on Geomorphology
The underlying geology, exogenic and endogenic activi-
ties, drainage morphometry and considerable changes in
climate during the Quaternary, influ ences the genesis
and morphology of landforms [16]. Structural hill, pedi-
ment, and valley fills and pediplains formed by the in-
fluence of permeable geology, are moderate to nearly
level plains, with medium to low drainage density (<2.0),
low cumulative length of 4th and 5th order streams .On the
other hand landforms like the Hill top plains/dissected
plateau landforms are associated with high drainage den-
sity, bifurcation ratio and high cumulative length of first,
second and third order streams.
Denudational processes are actively involved in land-
scape reduction processes. In the present study, the dif-
ferent geomorphic units (Figure 5) i.e. Structural Hill,
Table 4. Relief aspects of Upper South Koel Basin.
Basin/Sub-Basin Elevation in m Relative Relief Basin Length Relief Ratio
Max H' Min h' (H-h) in m in km (H-h)/L
Sub-Basin I 700 640 60 23.45 0.002
Sub-Basin II 740 660 80 26.85 0.003
Sub-Basin III 740 640 100 20.08 0.005
Sub-Basin IV 720 660 60 18.15 0.003
Upper South Koel 740 660 80 49.07 0.002
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Slope ( in Degree)
0 - 0.5
0.5 - 2
2 - 5
5 - 10
10 - 21
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Figure 4. Slope map of study area.
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Struct u r al Hill
Linear Ridge
Inselbe rg
Re sidual Hill
Pediment Inselberg
Figure 5. Geomorphology map of study area.
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Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
Pediments, Pediplain, Valley, Ridges have been deline-
ated based on image characteristics. Valleys are the un-
consolidated sediments deposited by streams/rivers,
normally in narrow fluvial valley and constitute boulders,
cobbles, pebbles; gravels, sand and silt, cover nearly
34.5% of the study area. Pediplains are gently sloping,
smooth surfaces of erosional bed rocks resulting from
coalescence of two or more pediments. Pediplains oc-
cupy 52.25% of the total study area. Structural hills
comprising meta-igneous rocks show linear to arcuate
pattern covering 1.39% of the area. Pediments occur at
the foot hills and occupy 11.86 % of the study area.
8. Conclusion
The study reveals that GIS and remote sensing can be
very useful in evaluation of various morphometric pa-
rameters and its influence on landforms. Interpretation of
satellite images can help delineate lithological and geo-
morphic units. GIS facilitates analysis of various mor-
phometric parameters and acts as an effective tool in es-
tablishing relationship between drainage morphometry
and properties of landforms. The study also reveals that
DEM can useful in studying the topography within GIS
environment. Geomorphological study of an area is the
systematic study of present day landforms, related to
their origin, nature, development, geologic changes re-
corded by the surface features and their relationship to
other underlying structures. Therefore, it has become an
integral part of groundwater study of an area. Some
morphometric elements (measurement of landforms)
provide valuable information for groundwater condition.
The morphometric parameters evaluated using GIS
helped to understand various terrain parameters such as
nature of the bedrock, infiltration capacity, runoff, etc.
Similar studies in conjunction with high resolution satel-
lite data help in better understanding the landforms and
their processes and drainage pattern demarcations for
basin area planning and management [17].
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