Assessment of land use land cover change effects on water resources in the oil palm plantation catchment area that supplying water to the palm oil mill

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The Palm oil industry requires a considerable amount of water for the mills to extract palm oil from the harvested fruit. Continuous and consistent water supply is vital for the sustainable operation of palm oil mills, where the main water supply is typically from surface water, such as rivers, lakes, and catchment ponds. This indicates that the palm oil mills located inland are especially vulnerable to water supply since tap water from water utility providers is infeasible due to cost and location constraints. Hence, the inland palm oil mills rely heavily on the availability of water resources nearby the mills. The land management in the plantation, especially the region encloses water catchment area supplying water to the mills, thus plays an important role in securing the sustainable operation of palm oil mills. It has been confirmed by various studies that the land use and land cover change (LULCC) has a significant impact on the water resource in the catchment area. Improper planning of LULCC could disrupt the hydrologic and water availability in a region, resulting in a water scarcity issue that threatens the community, industry, and ecosystem relying on it. Though the studies on LULCC related to the palm oil industry have been conducted in the past few years, most of the studies have been focusing on deforestation and consequent greenhouse gas impacts and loss of biodiversity. The impact of LULCC in oil palm plantations on the water catchment area supplying water resources to the mills has received much less attention. There is not a comprehensive study that looks into this aspect. The decision makers of the palm oil industry lack of proper information to determine how LULCC around the plantation could have affected the water resource in the catchment area, and subsequently unclear of the negative consequences of LULCC on water resource as well as the continuous operation of palm oil mills. Hence, this study aims to address these issues by working on three objectives: to investigate the LULCC in the palm oil mill water catchment area; to determine the relationship between LULCC and water balance in the catchment region; and to develop a spatial model on the projection of the water resources around the palm oil mill in future. The study area of this project is Kerdau palm oil mill located inland of Temerloh, Pahang. The mill operation relies on surface water, where a catchment pond is constructed to gather fresh water from the river. The mill is currently struggling with water resources as the catchment pond is shrinking year by year, which might be caused by LULCC around the catchment area. The project will start with data collection, where primary data will be taken using remote sensing and GIS application and secondary data obtained from Malaysian government agencies. Primary satellite images for the year of 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2020 will be obtained via Landsat and Sentinel. Secondary data such as LULCC, climatic data such as rainfall, topography, temperature, and soil types for the corresponding years will also be gathered. The satellite data will be pre-processed to delineate the watershed using IFSAR data with 5-meter spatial resolution. The LULCC classification for the satellite images will then be performed using a support vector machine algorithm which is part of the machine learning approach to determine the LULCC in the region. All the data will then be used as inputs for the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to assess the impacts of LULCC on hydrological components in the catchment area, such as evapotranspiration, surface runoff, and transmission losses. The SWAT model will then be validated using statistical approaches and deployed to understand the change in water volume with time associated with LULCC from the year of 1990 to 2020. Based on the simulated results from the spatial model, decision makers can use it to predict the hydrological consequences of LULCC in the oil palm plantation on the water catchment. Such understanding is important as it can provide important concepts and useful information regarding how a specific land use change can affect streamflow in the catchment area. The model allows stakeholders to determine how the changes made may affect catchment areas and water resources in the oil palm plantation. In this way, it is possible to understand the behaviour of a catchment and implement preventive measures for the correct management of water resources. Studying the hydrological and qualitative response of a catchment area to different LULCC is important to develop managerial strategies for a sustainable use of water resources and continuous operation of palm oil mills. The framework and model developed in this project can be applied to other palm oil mills to predict the water resiliency of the mills and future water resource availability based on proposed or planned LULCC around the catchment area. Apart from that, this study can be used as a basis and guide to build new mills in the future.This enables the decision makers to take appropriate action or modification on the planned LULCC to secure the water resource and sustainable operation of the mills.

For further information: wl_ang@ukm.edu.my

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