Thursday, April 8, 2021

The fires of April 2021

 The exceptionally dry weather has resulted in tinder dry foliage all over rural Kalimpong and Sikkim which in turn has caused numerous (mainly forest) fires in our region and the sound of fire trucks clanging their balls and rushing around is almost a daily happening these days in my town.
I had the nasty experience of one almost creeping into our compound three days ago; yesterday we witnessed a huge blaze at Deolo which is the highest point in Kalimpong. Luckily, the place is also the storage for the water supply to Kalimpong town so the could be brought under control with no loss of life or property.

Unfortunately, there is no indication that we will have rain in the near future and each day there are more fires taking place in Kalimpong

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

March 2021- Rainfall of the Darjeeling - Sikkim region

Praful Rao with Ms Shreya Gurung

Kalimpong district
Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya

Sunday, April 4, 2021

How a Himalayan Palm Civet got its head stuck in a plastic food container due to a landslide

 On 22Mar2021, at around 11.00am I was alerted that a strange animal which looked like a rhesus monkey (which are regular, unwanted guests around my home) had its head stuck inside a plastic container and was on a tree in the vicinity of my land at Tirpai, Kalimpong. I checked and quickly took some telephoto images of the helpless animal which I sent off to a friend and an official in the W Bengal Forest Department.
The animal turned out to be large Himalayan palm civet from the jungle bordering my home and it was apparently rummaging for food in the waste dump nearby. Having found an empty plastic food container, it climbed back onto the tree and tried eating some food inside the jar and in the process got its head stuck inside the jar which turned into a veritable noose around its neck which would slowly dehydrate and asphyxiate the beast in a most efficient and cruel manner.
The photos speak the rest of the story.
So how did the Himalayan civet nearly choke to death after getting its head stuck in a plastic container?
Well, that's the story of Kalimpong's unending waste disposal problem which started with a garbage dump landslide in Sep2007.
Some of the photos of the garbage dump are slides from presentations used by me at earlier occasions.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Follow up on the 14Oct2020 SHEAR Workshop on 'Exploring the potential of mobile phones and apps for the crowdsourcing of data and hazard communication' : STH experience in using Whats App as a tool in this regard

STH formed 'HAZARD ALERTS  or HA' a Whats App group 5 years ago with the intention of alerting communities in the Darjeeling-Sikkim region on hazards, heavy rain, landslides and other relevant serious environmental threats. Since then HA has grown to become a large (228 members) group with people from all walks of life and all over the world being members even tho the majority are from the Darjeeling-Sikkim region. We have approx 22 PhDs, government officials, army officers, students, farmers and a large number of media personnel and NGOs in the group.
On 14OCt 2020, STH had taken part in a SHEAR workshop on 'Exploring the potential of mobile phones and apps for the crowdsourcing of data and hazard communication' where we talked about our experience in HAZARD ALERTS and how it has grown into a major information and alerting hub in the region.
The 5 min long presentation on HA made by Dr Nima Doma Lama and myself is now on the SHEAR You tube channel
SHEAR has also written an academic paper and made a summary video that have now been published.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong District,
Darjeeling -Sikkim Himalaya

STH activities: Participating in IMI's Webinar on Current Disaster Discourse and Lessons from Chamoli (27Mar2021)

 IMI's ( 3 hr webinar on Lesson's from the recent Chamoli disaster in Uttarakhand was held online on 27Mar2021 with experts from Uttarakhand (Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology) as well as Dr Saibal Ghosh from GSI's GHRM, talking about the disaster.
STH helped pool in the resource persons as well as participated - talking about the need to standardize Landslide Reporting in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) using the Landslip Reporting form  and the Landslide Reporting App developed by Project Landslip .
Dr KR Vishwanathan, representative of Practical Action (India) spoke at length about the landslide reporting tools.

The webinar was attended by representatives of the State Disaster Management Authorities of Uttarakhand and Sikkim as well as IMI representatives from across the IHR.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

February 2021 - Rainfall of the region


We have been going steadily deficient in rainfall after the monsoons of 2020 and February 2021 was no exception - the first half of the month was bone dry thru out our region. Rainfall thereafter, was mostly restricted to SIKKIM and is published ( in mm) date-wise below:

15 Feb - Sankalan 3.8 Singhik 2.8 (North Sikkim)
16Feb - Mangan 7.1 Sankalan 5.6mm (North Sikkim) Gangtok 2.1 (East Sikkim)
             Damthang 5 (South Sikkim) Gyalsing 3.2 (West Sikkim)
17Feb - Mangan 21.3 Sankalan 24.6 Gyalsing 1
18Feb - Gyalsing 18.2
19Feb - Kabi 21.4
25Feb - Kabi 4.8
26Feb - Gangtok 14.8 Mangan 7.2 Gyalsing 6.4 Kalimpong 2 Darjeeling 1.3 Siliguri 3.5
27Feb - Gangtok 30.7 Mangan 28.3 Gyalsing 17.6 Dentam 11.8 Kalimpong 3 Siliguri 1.8 Darjeeling 0.2
28Feb - Gangtok 44.8 Mangan 38.3 Gyalsing 3.6  Namthang 2

Praful Rao with Shreya Gurung
Kalimpong district
Dajeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Visit by Dr Saibal Ghosh, GHRM - GSI regarding establishment of Landslide Early Warning System in Kalimpong district (16Jan2021)

Project LANDSLIP is a consortium of experts from UK, Italy and India which is working to enhance landslide-related hazard assessment in India at regional scales (e.g. >5 km2) in two main case-study regions, Nilgiris District and Darjeeling/East Sikkim Districts, focusing on weather patterns, landscape systems, rainfall thresholds and societal factors.
In doing so LANDSLIP has developed and established a prototype of a regional LANDSLIDE EARLY WARNING SYSTEM (LEWS) in Darjeeling district and in the Nilgiris which has started functioning in an experimental manner since the monsoons of 2020.
Dr SAIBAL GHOSH, Head of GEOHAZARDS Research and Management, GSI visited Kalimpong on 16Jan2021 to brief the District Magistrate, Ms R Vimala on GSI establishing a replica of the one Darjeeling in Kalimpong:

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya

Monday, January 11, 2021

Dec 2020 rainfall of the region

December 2020 saw very little rain in the region:

Date: 04Dec2020            05Dec2020                06Dec2021
Gangtok 27.8mm            Gangtok 2mm            Gangtok 11mm
Mangan 11mm                Kalimpong 2mm        Mangan 4.1mm
Damthang 3mm              Darjeeling 5.2mm      Damthang 9.4mm                    
Jaldhaka 2.2mm            Jaldhaka 1mm            Gyalsing 6.2mm

Most of the region was dry.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling SIkkim Himalaya

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Mungpel: A village living on the edge (03Jan2021)

 As a part of our landslide surveys, I visited Mungpel, a small village in Pabringtar GP of Kalimpong (Block -1) on 03Jan2021. The village consists of 30 odd houses who are almost entirely of members of Limbu ethnic group. The sombre fact is that of these homes, approximately 10-15 overlook and are in the proximity of huge landslide.

We had carried out a landslide survey in this area in April 2011 and a map of the area from that survey is placed below:
Landslide history
As per locals, the landslide was insignificant until 2018 after which it has grown to its present size. This whole area receives very heavy rainfall and is thrashed by intense thunderstorms during the pre-monsoons but it is a pity there are no rainfall data from this place to relate the landslide activity.
However, the locals clearly said most of the damage was done during the monsoons of 2020 especially around end of Jun2020.
Coordinates of Mungpel Landslide:
N 26.95696° E088.54993°

At the base of the this hill there is a fairly big Durung khola (river) and a wonderful flat piece of land where the villagers do their agriculture and farming. As per the villagers the landslide was not due to toe erosion by the river and was caused by the inherent geology and heavy rain.
Yet another major landslide in the lower Sherwani area, nudges the Mungpel landslide and we have yet to survey that area.

As I have mentioned 3 families have already relocated to upper regions but some 10 other families also may suffer a similar fate - these monstrous landslides are seem impossible to control without serious study and funding.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling -Sikkim Himalaya