Saturday, February 10, 2018

STH Activities : At Gangtok for the IRADe Workshop (06Feb2018) and the DHI meet in Darjeeling (09Feb2018)

Excerpt of Press Release
Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRADe) in collaboration with G B Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment & Sustainable Development (GBPNIHESD) and North-Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC), with support from Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC) under National Mission on Himalayan Studies (NMHS) has taken up a project to develop disaster resilience action plans for Gangtok city. To achieve the desired outcome of vulnerability assessments of the city, along with the development of disaster resilience plans and capacity building on disaster resilience, a “Multi-stakeholder consultation workshop” was organized on 06th February, 2018 at Summit Denzong, Renaissance Hotel, Gangtok.
This one-day event was attended by officials from various national as well as international organizations associated with disaster resilience such as Geological Survey of India (GSI)-Sikkim Unit; Land Revenue and Disaster Management Department, Government of Sikkim; State Remote Sensing Applications Centre, Sikkim State Climate Change Cell; Urban Development and Housing Department, Government of Sikkim; Water Security & Public Health Department, Government of Sikkim; Transport Department, Government of Sikkim; Gangtok Municipal Corporation; Department of Geography, Sikkim University; Department of Geology, Sikkim University; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Central Water Commission (CWC); Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) and local NGOs such as SaveTheHills and Helping Hands.
Shri Alok Kumar Srivasatav, Chief Secretary, Government of Sikkim was the Chief Guest of the event. In his address, Shri Srivasatav expressed the need to shift from previous response oriented approach to disaster management to mitigation focussed efforts. He was glad to know that this was the first stakeholders’ workshop related to disaster management of Gangtok taking place in the city. He emphasized the need to adopt new technologies such as remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) for developing disaster resilience policies. He assured full co-operation from the state Government for the project.
Dr Ajit Tyagi, Former Director General of Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) and presently Senior Advisor, IRADe in his welcome address emphasized the need to shift from reactive approach to disaster management to proactive one. He praised the efforts of Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority (SSDMA) in this direction. He stressed that engagement of civil society, Govt. officials and other stakeholders is necessary right from the very beginning so that the outcomes of the project are successfully implemented. The present workshop is an effort in this direction.
Dr Jyoti Parikh, Executive Director (ED), IRADe, highlighted the contributions by IRADe over the years in the Indian Himalayan cities. She presented the various reports published by IRADe documenting the rapid vulnerability assessment done for various Indian cities.
Shri Shakti Singh Choudhary, Mayor of Gangtok city, in his opening remarks, thanked IRADe, GBPNIHESD and NESAC for organizing the event. He added that the city has learned a lot since the 2011 earthquake and now there are more efforts being taken by various organizations for developing disaster resilience in the city. He welcomed the project and asserted that the organizations involved should also support in developing other city level plans for overall development of the city.
You can read about IRADe here

You can read about IMI here

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Friday, January 26, 2018

STH activities : With students of Colby College (USA) -25Jan2018

Refer this post on the STH blog
Raising awareness about the environmental issues facing the Himalayas and also the severe landslide hazard problem of the Darjeeling-Sikkim region is one of the main roles of STH.
As such it was wonderful to talk to 19 students of Colby College (USA) once again in 2018. We hope that this will be an annual event for both STH and Colby.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Monday, January 22, 2018

STH activities : Focus on the CHIBO-PASHYOR landslide

Read about the landslide on this blog at 1, 2

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Saturday, January 13, 2018

STH Activity : Seminar on 'Development paradigm in the Mountains : a case study of Darjeeling and Kalimopng districts' (09Jan2018)

Referring our earlier blog
Some of the key take-aways from the seminar are :-
  • Small towns and hamlets in the districts are urbanizing at a phenomenal rate, often in an unplanned manner.
  • As they do so, the industries viz educational vocations, tourism, construction which are replacing traditional means of livelihood (main agro-based work) are more vulnerable to disaster.
  • The study clearly showed the huge growth of human settlements and expansion of the developmental activities (such as road construction) along steep slopes or in the vicinity of landslide areas which results in a net increase of disaster risk in these regions.
  • There is a need for landslide hazard zonation maps where available to be made public and easily accessible so as to incorporate this into the planning process.
  • In the final analysis, there is an urgent need to better manage development activities in the mountains to reduce disaster risk.
Praful Rao,
Kalimpong District,
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Monday, January 8, 2018

STH activities : Drone over 'ZERO' landslide at Nimbong, Kalimpong (Youtube video)

STH has reported on the landslide at ZERO gaon at Nimbong, Kalimpong here.
On 03Jan2018, STH again went to the area and flew a drone over the landslide from various places around the slide. The 5 min video is below :-

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling Sikkim Himalaya

Thursday, January 4, 2018

An event of Note : Seminar /discussion on 'Development paradigm in the Mountains - a case study of Darjeeling/Kalimpong districts' - 09Jan2018

In Jun2017, a team of researchers from the Dept of Urban and Regional Planning, Colorado University (Denver, USA) spent three weeks in Kalimpong and Darjeeling districts studying development and associated hazards (see here).
Prof Andrew Rumbach who led the team will be sharing the findings of the study in the seminar.
We will also have a small expose' on Project 'LANDSLIP' during the event.

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling Sikkim Himalaya

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Event's of Note : International Mountain Day (11Dec2017) events at Darjeeling and Dehradun.

2017's theme for International Mountain Day on 11Dec2017 could not be more apt for the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR). It is :-

Mountains under pressure : Climate, Hunger and Migration

Having worked on DRR issues of this region for the past 10yrs I am acutely aware just how much stress is building up in these mountains - rainfall patterns have become oscillations between excessive rain during a few months to almost drought like conditions for the remaining parts of the year; this and huge human interference in the mountains must  surely be at least partly responsible for the immense shortage of water all along the IHR. Consequently,  agriculture is no longer a profitable vocation in the mountains which in turn impacts food production to the extent that many parts of the IHR are today totally dependent on food supply from the plains. This sets into motion the humongous migration of especially the young from rural areas to the urban landscape and from our urban centers to the metropolis and abroad in search of better futures.
As such I am extremely glad to be part of the organization team which is holding a one day talk session at my old college ie St Joseph's College North Point, Darjeeling to exchange views on this most urgent topic.
On 11Dec again, the Sustainable Development Forum of Uttaranchal (SDFU) and the GBPNIHESD are organizing the annual 'Dr RS Tolia Memorial Lecture' on the first anniversary of Dr Tolia's death. This will be held at the Regional Science Centre in Dehradun with Shri Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Padma Bhushan delivering the keynote address
Dr RS Tolia, was of course a visionary and a mountain of a man who was one of the founding fathers of the IMI.
I was fortunate to have known him, being a part of IMI.

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong District,
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Monday, December 4, 2017

Preliminary Landslide Report of the ZERO landslide at NIMBONG (Kalimpong) - 30Nov2017

1. Nimbong is a small village located on the eastern fringes of Kalimpong district
(BDO - 1). The gram panchayat has a population of approx 8000 but the town has a population of 2659 (Census 2011). Agriculture is the main source of livelihood here. Being located on the foothills, heavy rainfall associated with thundershowers is a normal phenomenon during the monsoons.
Nimbong is no stranger to landslides with 36 people dying in 1996 and a huge landslide being located at Central Gaon which was reported by SaveTheHills (STH) in July2009 (see STH blog of that month). While the Central Gaon landslide seems to have somewhat stabilized, another landslide seems to be wreaking havoc in Nimbong. This is the landslide at Zero.
2. Zero Landslide
The significance of the Zero landslide is :-
  •  It has breached 200m of the vital road connection which links Nimbong, Lava, Samthar, Pabringtarm, Ghanti Dara with Kalimpong and the plains of the Dooars and Siliguri.
  • It directly threatens Anuj SUMI school, a branch of SUMI school (Kalimpong) with approx 250 students.
  • The landslide crown being barely 200m from Nimbong town also puts the entire town in grave danger in the long term.

    This is evident from the Google Image below :-
3. Brief History of Zero landslide
As per locals who were interviewed, the landslide started in 2012 as a minor ‘crack’ on the road  below the Anuj (SUMI) school. It slowly became a ‘sinking area’ and this subsidence area on the road became a full blown landslide in 2015. The landslide has been increasing in size since then and in 2016 it totally cut off Kalimpong-Nimbong-Siliguri link. This necessitated an alternate diversionary route across the slide made below the Anuj SUMI School and constructed through MNREGA. This road too was pulled down by the slide in Jun2017.
4. Probable cause
Pending a proper scientific study, inquiries made by STH reveal that:-
  • There are numerous natural springs in this area which sprout water and which has been used as a source of drinking water and agriculture by the surrounding villages for decades. These sub-surface water sources as per locals caused sinking zones on the Kalimpong- Nimbong- Siliguri road in this area which eventually caused the landslide.
  • Though Nimbong town is in the vicinity, the urban sprawl is still small and may not be contributing significantly to surface run-off and eventual erosion by jhoras which is a major cause of landslides in Kalimpong district.
  • A small river or jhora flows at the base of Zero landslide but the impact of erosion caused by this on the landslide also appears negligible.
  • There have been no major land use / land cover changes in the recent past which could have contributed to the slide. The Kalimpong-Nimbong-Siliguri road which has been cut off by the landslide was constructed in the 1970s. 
5. Rainfall
Lying in the foothills of North Bengal, this area receives heavy rain during the monsoons in the form of intense thundershowers. This certainly is a major trigger for landslides in this area.
Unfortunately, rainfall data of this region was not available to STH.
6. Location and dimensions of Zero landslide
Coordinates: N 26° 58' 08.4", E 088° 34' 13.8"
Elevation: 1168m/3832´
The landslide today is huge, measured on Google Earth the length from the crown (just a few meters below the school) till the base is approx 700m.
The width at the road is approx 150m.
7. Casualties and losses
Till date the landslide has not resulted in any human casualties, even though locals have reported loss of livestock. As on date five families have been relocated and along with property, livelihoods and farmland has been lost.
But the real danger posed by the slide is in the future, where this slide will:-
  •  Destroy Anuj SUMI school, a class 11 standard school with approx 250 students
  • Destroy a number of homes which lie on the edge of the landslide zone.
  •  Destroy a heritage Church built in 1886.
  • Destroy the Nimbong Panchayat office.
  • Breach the Kalimpong –Nimbong-Siliguri road which will effectively isolate large areas of eastern Kalimpong district.
  • Ultimately destabilize Nimbong town.
8. Suggested remedial measures
What was apparent to STH after spending a day touring the landslidewhat is evident is that time is of essence and in order to mitigate further damage that the landslide may cause, the following remedial measures are suggested :-
  • A proper scientific investigation may be done (by the GSI) immediately to find the cause of the landslide and to suggest measures to mitigate further damage.
  • Emergency landslide protection measures which include bio-engineering (vetiver, bamboo check dams etc ) as well as other engineering methods maybe commenced so as to stabilize the area before the next monsoons.
  • Rainfall data may be obtained and correlated to the activity of the Zero landslide. Manual rainfall gauges may be made available and rainfall data be maintained at Nimbong.
  • All inhabitants in the vicinity of the landslide may be made aware of the danger posed by the landslide especially during heavy rain or even minor earthquakes.
  • Internet and phone connectivity maybe improved in the area with a view to communicate weather warnings.

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya