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Published in Global Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, Volume 4, Issue 6, May 2015

Flood Hazard Zonation and Damage Assessment Using Geospatial

N. Alam1, Z. Ali2, M. Haq2, B. M. Ghouri1

Institute of Space Technology, Karachi Campus, Pakistan

Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission, Karachi, Pakistan

Flood hazards are a regular risk to life and goods. Floods are the most common and severe of
all naturally occurring disasters. It is a global phenomenon upsetting all types of prepared and
unprepared people. Floods damage population, irrigation, communication facilities and other
social services along the river banks and low lying adjacent areas. Flooding is a common event
in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and mostly affects the areas that are settled along the banks of River
Kabul. The 2010 floods were significantly high both in scale and destruction among all the
floods that Pakistan experienced in the last decades. In 2010, heavy and persistent rainfall for
successive four days caused heavy floods which broke all the previous records of discharge,
damages and rainfall. In Pakistan, mostly statistical data is used during disasters. The updated
geospatial data and timely response are needed to assist the flood affected population. This study
focuses on the use of geospatial technologies in disaster management with special emphasis on
damage assessment, hazard zonation and evacuation planning. Flood zonation has been done by
categorizing the hazard zones in low, medium and high hazard zones. The exposed population to
flood hazard has been identified. The safe location map has been generated for evacuation
planning and for camp site selection during flood inundation. This study uses survey research
technique for collecting the responses from affected population in union councils of district
Nowshera. The responses from all communities have been mapped and added to the final results
using participatory GIS techniques.
Keywords: Flood Disaster Management, Spatial Analysis, Participatory GIS
Corresponding Author/s: N. Alam (,
Z. Ali. (, M. Haq (, B. M. Ghouri (

Floods are extreme natural events in which the
water overflows onto the banks of river [1].
Flood is measured to be a trend coupled with
unusually high flow rate of water over land
which leads to severe damages in terms of
social, physical and economical impacts [2].

Flood hazards are the most common and harsh

of all natural disasters and are a regular risk to
life and property [3]. Flood hazard has been
reported approximately everywhere in the world
but its effects are much more prominent in the
developing countries [4] [5]. In the last few
decades floods have caused vast socio-economic
damages in the South Asian countries [6].

Published in Global Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, Volume 4, Issue 6, May 2015

Floods have been recognized as a major natural

disaster in Pakistan. Since 1947, seventeen
major floods hit Pakistan estimating economic
losses and damages as US$ 12 billion [7]. In the
last few decades, Pakistan faced a number of
flood hazards almost every year. Monsoon
rainfall each year from July to September due to
the storm system developed in the Bay-ofBengal has physically exposed the population of
Pakistan to flood hazards. The 2010 floods
affected twenty percent of the country by taking
more than 1985 precious lives, rubbing out 17
million acres of crop area and damaging around
1.5 million houses. Estimated 20 million peoples
have been displaced by these floods and caused
a large scale destruction across Pakistan [7].
Riverine flooding is also common in Pakistan in
the low lying areas along the rivers during
monsoon season and flash flooding usually
occurred in hilly and semi-hilly areas. Floods hit
Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and
hill torrents have a tendency to affect the hilly
areas of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Federally
Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Balochistan
and KP. The flood events of 1950, 1973, 1976,
1988, 1992, 1997 and particular recently
abnormal 2010 floods caused heavy human and
financial loss. The 2010 floods was much bigger
in magnitude and scale as compare to Indian
Ocean Tsunami 2004, Kashmir earthquake 2007,
cyclone Katrina 2005, Cyclone Nargis 2008 and
Haiti earthquake of 2010. Floods affect river
basins in KP, Punjab, Sindh, and some areas of
Balochistan. Indus River is the major source of
flooding every year in Pakistan [8]. The
Nowshera, Mardan, Peshawar and Charsadda
districts in KP province are exposed to Kabul
River flood risk. Major urban centers like
Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi have
experienced flooding due to incapacity of
sewerage system in heavy rains [6]. In 2010
floods, the Kabul River and Swat River
experienced record flow of 400,000 cusecs
breaking previous record of 250,000 cusecs flow

in 1929. Such an exceptionally high flow

inundated the Nowshera district and adjoining
areas. In KP, the Nowshera district was badly
affected by floods. Nowshera experiences rivers
floods as well as flash floods almost every year
mostly in summer season because a number of
rivers and seasonal torrents flow through it. The
agriculture land has been inundated and eroded
along with active crops. Damages to built-up
properties such as dwelling units, services, road
network and agriculture were of highest
proportion [7]. Rapid information and response
are required to help in relief and recovery during
and after floods. There is a need to quickly
monitor the situations during and after floods.
This paper explains how to effectively use
modern technologies such as RS and GIS in
flood disaster management. Damage assessment
in flood affected union councils of the Nowshera
district during 2010 floods is carried out in this
study using RS and GIS technologies. The flood
inundated areas are identified in the study area
and damages to infrastructure such as
settlements, schools, health facilities and other
critical infrastructures are assessed by
comparing pre & post flood spatial data. At the
end the hazard zonation maps are generated by
integrating the indigenous knowledge of the
surveyed union councils using Participatory GIS
Study Area
Nowshera district located in the center of
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province covering an
area of about 1700 Km2 between latitude 3342'
to 3409'N and longitude 7141' to 7215'E.
River Kabul separates the southern union
councils of Nowshera from the northern union
councils. The flood affected union councils
Azakhel Bala, Azakhel Payan, Badrashi,
Kheshki Bala, Nowshera Cantt, Nowshera Kalan
and Pir Pai of Nowshera district have been
selected for surveyed research in this study.

Published in Global Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, Volume 4, Issue 6, May 2015

Figure 1: District Nowshera Reference Map

The Deputy Commissioner (DC) administers the
Nowshera district. Nowshera district has 47
union councils (UCs) and 12 town councils.
Total number of Mouzas are 153. The district
consists of four municipal committees and one
Town Committee. District Police Officer (DPO)
heads the district police headquarters. There are
eight police stations currently functioning in the
district. The district has two national assembly
constituencies and five provincial assembly
Research Methodology
In this study, flood damage assessment has been
done by intersecting satellite imageries of the
flooded areas with the existing baseline data

acquired from different organizations. Flood

zonation has been done by categorizing the
hazard zones in low, medium and high category
and damages have been calculated. Population
exposure to flood hazard has been identified
using the Landscan raster dataset of 2010. The
safe location map has been generated for
evacuation planning during flood that can be
then utilized for proposed camp selection during
flood inundation. In this study, survey research
has been used to collect the responses from the
affected population in the flooded area.
Qualitative data are collected mainly from
secondary sources while qualitative data are
mostly consist of data acquired from community
methodology flow diagram is given in Figure 2.

Published in Global Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, Volume 4, Issue 6, May 2015

Figure 2: Research Methodology

Data Collection
The data collection process has been divided
into two phases. In first phase, the primary data
has been collected from the local community
and their response has been analyzed. In second
phase, the spatially enabled data and satellite
imageries have been collected from different
open source websites and public data available
at offices.
Qualitative Data Collection
In order to document the community
experiences of Nowshera district, twenty
questionnaires per each union council were
distributed among the local community
members. Open ended questionnaires were also
distributed in Nowshera Kalan and Khaishki
Bala UCs to scale the community response
before finalizing of questionnaire. Based on the
interviews of the community members, an open

ended questionnaire was designed and their

responses were mapped. The field survey of all
UCs was not possible due to time constraint and
other limitations. Survey research has been
conducted in selected UCs by gathering the
community members of each union council to a
Hujra (a village community center). UCs of
Azakhel khel payan, Azakhel bala, Badrashi,
Khaishki bala, Khaishki payan, Nowshera kalan,
Nowshera cantt and Pir piai were selected for
focus group discussions and questionnaire. Field
data was collected from local community and
government officials. Different techniques were
applied for capturing indigenous knowledge of
the local community. Focus group discussions
were also organized in each UC and people were
asked to share their experiences regarding the
2010 floods. Furthermore, government statistics
were collected from DCO office at district level.
The survey data was analyzed and the results
were plotted on maps & graphs. The results of
physical and socio economic damages collected

Published in Global Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, Volume 4, Issue 6, May 2015

from the questionnaires and spatial analysis

were then integrated.

Data Analysis and Discussions

Quantitative Data Collection
Different government and non-governmental
organizations were approached for obtaining the
secondary data in selected UCs. The data was
collected in the form of reports, statistics and
graphs and maps. Most of spatial data used in
this research was publicly available and owned
by the concerned organization. Some of the data
and satellite imageries were downloaded directly
from their websites.
MODIS images of the study area were
downloaded from the Glovis website.
Supervised classification technique was then
applied on these images. The MODIS image
pixels with dark blue reflectance were
considered as stagnant water and separated from
flowing water having light blue color of the
inundated areas using expert knowledge image
interpretation technique. A signature file with
selected trained samples of 50 locations in the
selected areas were developed and the image
were then classified. The resultant inundation
classes were extracted to vector data format.
Manual removing of the isolated pixels was
done and the accumulated flood extent of
inundated area was generated in ArcGIS. The
baseline maps were then intersected with
accumulated flood extent of inundated area for
extracting different types of information layers
for damage assessment. Digital Elevation Model
(DEM) along with other information layers and
calculated flood extent were also analyzed for
hazard zonation and safe location maps

The data collection process was divided into two

phases. In first phase, the primary data as per
response collected from the local community
was analyzed. In second phase, the spatially
enabled data such as RS and GIS data collected
from different open source websites and public
data available at offices was analyzed.
The population projected on the basis of 1998
statistics collected from DCO office has been
cross checked with the population extracted
from Landscan raster dataset of 2010. It has
been observed that Pir piai, Badrashi and
Khaishki payan were over estimated while in
Landscan raster dataset and Nowshera kalan,
Nowshera kalan and Azakhel payan population
were under estimated as calculated from the
raster dataset using the zonal statistical analysis.

It is observed after processing the MODIS

imageries that 77 Km2 area has been inundated

Published in Global Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, Volume 4, Issue 6, May 2015

by 2010 flood water out of 183 Km2 of selected

UCs. Results extracted from satellite imageries
showed that flood water inundated 42% area of
the surveyed UCs. Nowshera kalan was found
the most devastating UC with 78.84% of the
area that was directly inundated by 2010 floods

health centre in Khaishki balan UC were

inundated by 2010 floods water.
Total number of government schools in
surveyed UCs were 179 out of which 63 schools
were inundated by 2010 floods water. Total
number of boys school was 110 and number of
girls schools was 69. Total of 39 boys and 24
girls schools were inundated by 2010 floods
water out of 63 schools. Analyzing the results
35% of boys schools were inundated as
compared to 34% of girls schools
Flood hazard zonation maps were developed by
applying geospatial techniques. Hazard zonation
was categorized as high, medium and low
hazard zones.

The selected UCs has a 93 Km of road network

comprising primary, secondary, Grand Trunk
(GT) road (Highway) and motorway. The GT
road which is the main road connecting
Islamabad with Peshawar passes through UCs of
Azakhel bala, Azakhel payan, Pir piai,
Nowshera cantt and Badrashi. Motorway
touching the northern part of Kheshki payan UC.
A total of 51 Km roads were submerged in flood
water. A large portion of GT road (about 78%)
passing through these UCs was submerged in
flood water.
Nowshera kalan UC has the highest length of
road submergence where 30 out of 37 Km roads
has been submerged comprising of 81%. About
53% of the Nowshera cantt roads were
submerged in flood water, six Km of khaishki
payan was submerged. No road inundation was
in Badrashi and khaishki bala using MODIS data
and FAO categorized road network.
The government health facilities analysis
showed that Nowshera hospital situated in
Nowshera cantt. Gandheri basic health facility
situated in Nowshera kalan and Kheshki rural

Population of 25601 individuals are living in

highly exposed flood hazard zone. Total
population exposed to medium flood hazard are
39382. There are only 597 people who are living
in low hazard areas that are in the southern parts
of Badrashi, Azakhel payan and Pir piai. Whole
of the Nowshera kalan falls in high hazard zone
along with the southern areas of Khaishki bala,
Khaishki payan and the northern areas of
Azakhel bala. Azakhel payan, Pir piai and
Nowshera cantt are also in high hazard zone.
Population residing in flood inundated areas
extracted from MODIS flood extent and
Landscan population dataset were 22822

Published in Global Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, Volume 4, Issue 6, May 2015

The population of Nowshera district is exposed

to floods hazard, the settlements in low lying
areas and near to Kabul River portraying an
alarming situation for future floods. The UCs of
Azakhel payan has 14609 and Khaishki payan
9739 people living in high hazard zone. In
medium hazard zone Nowshera kalan has 16504,
Badrashi 5857, Khaishki bala 3804 and Azakhel
bala has 3751 people.
Efficient evacuation plan saves precious lives,
and facilitate relief and recovery phases of

In this map, all the baseline layers including,

roads, hospitals, schools, population density,
river bed, flood extent, elevation profile of the
study area, landuse, settlements and buildup
areas were weighted. Multi-criteria analysis was
performed by giving distances to river, roads,
schools, hospitals, and villages with higher
elevation and easy accessibility. Low lying areas
were eliminated from safe place selection and
the processed results were categorized based on
community perceptions and expert knowledge.
The northern areas of Khaishki bala and north

Figure 2: Evacuation plan map for surveyed UCs

disaster management. The previous experiences
western part of Khaishki payan can be used for
with floods are emphasizing on the need for
safe location during floods in evacuation
developing evacuation plan at district level. The
planning. Settlement on the right bank of river
district disaster management authorities develop
Kabul can be evacuated to the southern parts of
contingency plans on yearly basis but the
Azakhel bala, Azakhel payan and Badrashi.
evacuation plan is not made scientifically and
even not verified on ground. The use of RS and
Research Conclusion
GIS in combination with indigenous knowledge
can greatly improve the mechanism for
Concluding the results obtained from this study,
evacuation planning on local level and can be
it has been observed that some of the data
updated easily on regular basis. In Figure 5, an
showed variation while maximum data
evacuation plan map developed for the study
resembled and strengthened the results obtained
area is the amalgam of the community
from spatial analysis and survey research. The
perception, experts knowledge and spatial
population statistics obtained from DCO office
and population extracted from Landscan showed

Published in Global Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, Volume 4, Issue 6, May 2015

higher differences in population. The flood

depth obtained from the respondents were
plotted against the flood extent and it was
observed that the maximum flood depth were
found in UCs that were completely inundated by
2010 flood extent extracted from MODIS
images. Maximum number of school damages
were reported by respondents as compare to
school damages calculated by spatial analysis.
The probable cause might include outdated data,
low resolution of satellite imagery and over
exaggeration of flood affected number of
schools by the respondents. In a nut shell, the
conclusions of this research can be summarized

RS and GIS can be effectively used

during all stages of disaster management
GIS can facilitate and help all the
stakeholders of disaster management in
rapid damage assessment, hazard
zonation and evacuation planning.
Non-availability of high resolution and
accurate data can be handled by using
the data obtained from survey research.
Participatory GIS is really beneficial for
incorporating the indigenous knowledge
of the community in spatial analysis.

We thank all the professors of Institute of Space
Technology (IST) and researchers from
SUPARCO who helped us in completing this
study. The local peoples of community also
facilitated in conducting field surveys. We
acknowledge the World Bank Pakistan team for
their help in providing helping materials.
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