SaveTheHills(STH) is a group of concerned citizens who are raising awareness about landslides in Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya.
Many landslides are the direct or indirect result of human interference and preventable if sufficient care is taken.
As such, unless we begin a comprehensive and sustained program towards landslide management, prevention and mitigation, the consequences of ignoring years of human callousness will, in the future be devastating.
* Having worked on the landslide problem of this region, I am very worried when we have intense rainfall towards the end of the monsoons. Some of our major landslide events (Oct 1968, Sep2007) have taken place at this time when the soil is saturated in the months of monsoon rain and a heavy downpour occurs triggering slope failure.
Last evening, we were lucky - the rainfall was extreme and intense reaching 215mm/hr and staying over a 100mm/hr for a good 20mins. Maybe what saved us was:
a. The past 10days have seen deficient rainfall with the last 2 days being dry.
b. The storm quickly moved away from us and within an hour we were dry again. * And this seems to be the new normal where we alternate between rainfall deficiencies and surplus, where we either have no water and our fields and springs are dry or when we have so much water that it causes landslides and death. * Having said this, I would also like to bring to light the recent landslides in Tsong, Yuksom area of Sikkim where there was no warning of heavy rain in the area as in the case of Kalimpong yesterday. These small local weather events which can result in heavy downpours but do not show up on satellite imagery and therefore give no warning are increasingly the ones we must guard against.
Total rainfall in the thunderstorm on 20Sep2019 42.7mm
A sensitization programme on climate change entitled " Deluge and Disaster: Towards Mitigation and Adaptation " was organised by the PG Dept of Geography and Applied Geography, Siliguri College in collaboration with the Center for Mitigation of Climate Change and Global Warming ( CMCCGW), on 17.09.2019, in the Dept of Geography, Siliguri College.
Anthropogenic climate change is one of the greatest challenges that humanity is facing in the 21st Century. Hence, the need to motivate and inspire young minds to ponder upon questions and issues that confront us today.
With this main objective and with the target audience primarily being the post graduate students of the
Department, the Programme was just the right mix of profound and proactive exploration of the core theme, under the tutelage of very distinguished experts:
Dr S. Mishra(Retd. Ag-meteorologist, WB) presented an in-depth research-based account of the climate change patterns in West Bengal for a period of over 100 years.
Wg Cdr Praful Rao (retd), President, STH spoke on 'Water - too little or too much, the new normal.'
Dr P. T. Bhutia( Ex APCCF, NB) presented a scientific account, which was at the same time, an empathetic and poignant portrayal of the impact on climate change on the Jaldhaka WLS.
DR S. Halder ( Exe. Engineer,WB) gave an enlightening talk on Deluge Disaster Risk Assessment. Dr. S. Ghosh( Director, Soil Survey, WB) explored issues of climate change vis a vis agriculture, while Smt Majumdar ( President, IRGSD, Kolkata) addressed the psychological response to climate induced disasters.
The quality of the lectures and the wisdom imparted by the
speakers ensured that the students were inspired and motivated to look at
issues of climate change, with the gravity and seriousness it deserves.
My thanks to Dr Nima Lama for the write up.
Darjeeling Sikkim Himalaya
Excerpt from NITI Ayog's 'Inventory and Revival of Springs in the Himalayas for Water Security'
'Mountain springs are the primary source of water for rural households in the Himalayan region. For many people, springs are the sole source of water. For example, a major proportion of drinking water supply in the mountainous parts of Uttarakhand is spring based, while in Meghalaya all villages in the State use
springs for drinking, irrigation and for livestock. As per a rough estimate, there are five million springs across India, out of which nearly 3 million are in the IHR alone. Despite the key role that they play, springs have not received their due attention and many are drying up. Spring discharge is reported to be declining due to increased water demand, land use change, and ecological degradation. With climate change and rising temperatures, rise in rainfall intensity and reduction in its temporal spread, and a marked decline in winter rain, the problem of dying springs is being increasingly felt across the Indian Himalayan Region...
Of late, efforts to preserve and save springs from drying up and efforts to recharge them are gaining momentum....'
The torrential downpours between the 06July till 17Jul2019 caused a spate of damage all over the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and resulted in 5 deaths and many landslides. Links are placed below:
a. Either it's too little or too much
b. Extreme event in Darjeeling
c. Landslide report
A graphical representation of the rainfall over Kalimpong in July2019 (from our Davis AWS) is placed below:
A copy of the RED warning issued by IMD during the period is placed below and as far as I can remember, the first 2 weeks of July 2019 saw the largest consecutive number of RED warnings issued for heavy rain for SHWB (Sub-Himalayan W Bengal) and Sikkim:
The rainfall data (Jun-July2019) for Sikkim from IMD Sikkim is below:
Rainfall data of Gangtok, Damthang, Dentam and rainfall maps are from IMD.
Over 100 students from schools and colleges, Darjeeling Municipality and members of Zero Waste Himalaya took the #Plastic Freedom Challenge pledge led by the Executive Officer, Darjeeling Municipality Shri Samiran Mandal at the Town Hall, Darjeeling on 8 August 2019. The pledge is to take a break from using plastic items for a week August 8 - August 15 so as to step towards a more sustainable lifestyle and reducing the load on the landfill. A plastic free Independence Day celebrations was also advocated in the event.
Plastic pollution has become one of the gravest concerns the world over and also for our mountains, the situation is no different. The plastic problem is directly related to how we are and packaging our products, but also largely to the way we are living our lives. We are Producing, Consuming and Throwing plastics like never before and all of the plastics which we have thrown will remain on the planet for a long time to come. Our oceans are full of plastics, so are our rivers and streams and forests. There is plastics in our bottled water, plastics in tap water, in the salt that we eat, and also in our poop. Therefore it goes without saying that there is a need to make concerted efforts to address the issue of plastic pollution through individual actions to bring changes to our lifestyles, as well as collective actions and policies to make companies more responsible. The #PlasticFreedomChallenge (#PFC) is a yearly campaign that takes place across the 12 mountain states and calls on individuals to that the challenge to go without plastic for a week.
Independence Day is a great opportunity to Beat Plastic Pollution and to break free from plastics, especially single use plastics. #PFC runs for a week from 8 August (Zero Waste Himalaya Day) to 15 August (Independence Day) where we challenge ourselves and others to go one week without plastics. #PFC is a collective response to bring positive changes to the unhealthy and unsustainable lives that we are leading and is a stepping stone to journey towards more sustainable lifestyles, while influencing others to do the same. #PFC is also to mark our collective stand against companies that pollute by refusing to use their products (that are also unhealthy and toxic) for a week, and to continue it beyond.
The event had presentations on the rationale for the Plastic Freedom Challenge and need to close the tap on plastic as the only solution to the plastic pollution and the need to go beyond the narrative of dustbins, brooms, rolling down the hill and burning waste. Ajay Chettri performed his song Taarjeeiling during the event and the song ended with Darjeeling ko phor kasley sangalera laney ho(who will manage the waste of Darjeeling) which gave the queue to the pledge.
The Town Hall had exhibition and sale of sustainable products like cloth sanitary pads and menstrual cups – DLR Prerna; locally produced reusable bags from Hayden Hall and Earth and Home; bamboo toothbrushes, straws, wooden pencils and games from Tieede, bio-degradable Rakhi from Scavengers. Zero Waste Himalaya had a poster series 12 steps to zero waste that highlights simple doable steps that enables individuals to reduce their waste and move to a more sustainable lifestyle. OKC Monastery had a special poster exhibition that highlighted their initiative of a plastic free Sakha Dawa where no plastic wrapped offering and food was used in the entire rituals and festivities. The exhibition inspired and offered options to the participants of the event.
The participants at the Zero Waste Himalaya Day were students and teachers of St. Joseph’s College, Darjeeling Government College, Ghoom Jorebunglow Degree College, Municipal Boys HS, St. Teresa’s HS, Notre Dame Academy, Assembly of Gods Church School, Nepali Girl’s HS, St. Joseph’s, St. Robert’s, Municipal Girls HS.
Zero Waste Himalaya is a pan Himalayan collective of individuals, Government Organisations, CSOs, FBOs that promote principles of zero waste as the sustainable waste management paradigm. The Darjeeling event was represented these ZWH members Anugyalaya, DLR Prerna, Scavengers, Tieede, WWF-India.
__________________________________________________ Contact details of ZERO WASTE HIMALAYA
Mr Roshan Rai (DLR Prerna) - firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms Priya Shrestha (WWF-India) - email@example.com
Mr RP Gurung (ECOSS) -firstname.lastname@example.org Mt Arpan Rai (Anugyalaya,Darj) - email@example.com _____________
Praful Rao, Kalimpong district Darjeeling Sikkim Himalaya
As far as rainfall goes, June 2019 for us in the Darjeeling Himalayas ended with a net deficiency of -56%:
Exact figures in for the region from IMD are:
The average rainfall figures for the region being:
So while the rural community in Kalimpong district felt very anxious at the continued deficiency of rain (Apr and May2019 were also bone dry months), urban dwellers were also facing a severe water shortage and extraordinary heat in the pre-monsoon season.
Then came July and in 10 days (06-15Jul2019) we received 98% of our monthly rain in Kalimpong and Darjeeling with Kurseong, Siliguri going well over the monthly rainfall during the same period:
In Aug2019 thus far, in just 5 days Kalimpong has received 51.1% of the monthly rain for August.
This trend is being seen in the entire country be it Vadodra or Mumbai and the consequences of these events have been covered in this blog and also by the media
I wonder whether we realize what we are facing and are prepared to face the new normal in precipitation which is always either too little rain or too much.
In the world of Geo-morphology, Prof Leszek Starkel of the Polish Academy of Sciences stands tall.
A virtual giant of a man and a pioneer in the studies of landslides in the Darjeeling Himalaya, he first came to Darjeeling after the Oct 1968 disaster and continued to turn up almost every year thereafter to trudge these mountains and write volumes.
I came across him quite by accident. A friend had loaned me Prof Starkel's book on landslides some time in early 2008 and while flipping thru the pages I found his email address on the last page of the book. I shot off an email to him and promptly forgot about it, never expecting a reply from someone as famous or as busy.
Almost 6 months later I received a reply from him saying he would be in this area in the autumn of 2008 and would be happy to meet me. What followed was almost history for STH - we quickly organized the first Seminar on Landslide Hazards at Darjeeling with Prof Starkel as our keynote speaker.
I found his 'Memoirs' recently while researching the 1968 disaster and have published the excerpts below: