Growth of cities and urban centres has been singled out as a major force contributing towards land use and land cover change (LULCC). This then presents challenges to development control and attainment of sustainable environment in the cities and urban centres. Lack of adequate and precise information with regards to urban expansion hinders effective land use planning and development control. In this regard, it is critical and important to collect, analyse, and disseminate information on use of land as well as land cover for sustainable development. This study sought to analyse land use and land cover (LULC) dynamics within the city of Lilongwe plus its 10 kilometers buffer using GIS and Remote Sensing. It further aimed at unearthing the changes that have occurred over the years, the inherent drivers of land use and land cover change as well as ecological implication owing to land use change.  The study adopted supervised classification using a maximum-likelihood algorithm to classify Landsat images from 2000, 2010, and 2020 respectively.  Primary data was analyzed using SPSS to deduce the drivers of the noted LULC change and its implication on ecological sustainability.


The results revealed that there had been an increase in settlement and a decrease in both sparse and dense vegetation, and bare land. Particularly, settlement increased from 57.72 km2 (3.27%) in 2000 to 360.26 km2 (20.44%), sparse vegetation decreased from 197 km2 (11.23%) in 2000 to 76.18 km2 (4.32%), and bare land decreased from 1492.26 km2 (84.96 %) to 1317.79 km2 (74.76%). Accuracy assessment results showed overall accuracies of 92.57%, 93.99%, and 91.75% 2000, 2010 and 2020 images respectively. Post-comparison technique using transition matrices revealed that LULC class of settlement gained land from either bare land or vegetation throughout the study period, which account for the noted urbanization within the city. It has also been unearthed that rapid population growth and urbanization are the main drivers of the noted changes in land use and land cover (LULC) changes for Lilongwe. The observed changes account for the observed ecological implications within the study area such as increased surface run-offs (flooding), pollution of soils and water, poor hygiene and sanitation, conflicting use of land and soil erosion.


The results from this study have potential to assist Development control authorities to revamp the existing policy regulations and coordination mechanisms for land use planning and development control. Updated LULC information will also be used in planning for sustainable development of the city such as informed development control strategies, the use of drainage systems to mitigate impacts of urban flooding and arresting further incidences of having incompatible land uses next to each other resulting in conflicts in the use of the land resource.





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