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Extracting irrigation structure networks from pre-Landsat 4 satellite imagery using vegetation indices
  • Cory Coakley
Cory Coakley
Kent State University
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Often discussed, the spatial extent and scope of the Khmer Rouge irrigation network has not been previously mapped on a national scale. Although low resolution, early Landsat images can identify water features accurately when using vegetation indices. We discuss the methods involved in mapping historic irrigation on a national scale, as well as comparing the performance of several vegetation indices at irrigation detection.Irrigation was a critical component of the CPK’s (Communist Part of Kampuchea) plan to transform Cambodia into an ideal communist society, aimed at providing surplus for the nation by tripling rice production. Of the three indices used, NDVI, CTVI, and TTVI (Normalized Difference, Corrected Transformed, and Thiam’s Transformed Vegetation Indexes, respectively), the CTVI provided the clearest images of water storage and transport. This method for identifying anthropogenic water features proved highly accurate, despite low spatial resolution. We were successful in locating and identifying both water storage and irrigation canals from the time that the CPK (Communist Party of Kampuchea) regime was in power. In many areas these canals and reservoirs are no longer visible, even with high resolution modern satellites. Most of the structures built at this time experienced some collapse, either during the CPK regime or soon after, however many have been rehabilitated and are still in use, in at least a partial capacity.