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.
Strong tremors were felt at Siliguri at around 1240h when an after shock measuring 6.7R (as per USGS) epicentered 17km S of Kodari in Nepal shook the country. It was a shallow quake taking place at 10km depth. (Red dot in above chart showing latest list of aftershocks)
Death toll : India : approx 40. Nepal crossed 1000 at 1930h IST.
Comunication is becoming difficult with our relatives and friends in Kathmandu because of power outages and their inability to charge mobile devices.
Tectonic Summary Seismotectonics of the Himalaya and Vicinity
Seismicity in the Himalaya dominantly results from the continental
collision of the India and Eurasia plates, which are converging at a
relative rate of 40-50 mm/yr. Northward underthrusting of India beneath
Eurasia generates numerous earthquakes and consequently makes this
area one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth. The
surface expression of the plate boundary is marked by the foothills of
the north-south trending Sulaiman Range in the west, the Indo-Burmese
Arc in the east and the east-west trending Himalaya Front in the north
of India.(Read more here)
You can get technical updates of the earthquake here and here
As per news reports, death toll in Nepal at the time of writing is 150 with another 18 deaths being reported in India. 14 after shocks have been reported. The fatalities will certainly increase with time and also the bad news is that this quake comes just as the SW monsoons are around the corner and we have 5 months of rains ahead where water ingress into the cracks and fissures in the mountains formed as a result of the 7.9R quake will lead to landslides.
If March2015 was the wettest in the last 100yrs for much of North and Central India (see here), then it must have been one of the driest in the Darjeeling-Sikkim region (see Slide 1)
From Oct2014, when the SW monsoons receded from this area, till 30Mar2015 we had no significant rains leading to bone dry conditions which caused raging forest fires (Slide 2), a severe potable water crisis in most urban dwellings in the region and dust/smoke haze which lowered visibility and resulted in months of atmospheric obscurity.
On 30Mar2015, the same storm system (Slide 3) which caused flooding and 16 deaths in Kashmir, barreled its way towards the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya, brought in sharp thundershowers at 4.40pm.
Rainfall data for 4 places in this region is placed below :-
Kalimpong - 22mm
Darjeeling town - 17mm
Aap Botey(Mineral Springs- Darjeeling) - 20.2mm
Mangan (N Sikkim) - 37mm
Chibo - Pashyor region located in the south-western tip of the Kalimpong town ridge-line consist of a number of villages and overlooking these areas are the urban settlements on the southern tip of Kalimpong town.
Due to a number of reasons, anthropogenic interference being one of them, this area has had a severe landslide problem for many decades now -
with virtually nothing being done to mitigate or otherwise control the instability of the area. Over the years, STH has highlighted (1,2 and more) the plight of this village to innumerable people including scientists, students, media people and politicians to say the least.
On 15Jan2015, STH had approx 17 students and 2 lecturers from Colby College (USA), visiting the area after an hours talk by the undersigned on 'Critical Environmental issues facing the Himalayas'. The landslide tour was conducted by Mr Subhas Lepcha, a person who belongs to Chibo village.
On 16Jan2015, STH accompanied two officials from Geological Survey of India for a tour of the affected areas.