Saturday, September 15, 2007

Visions of hell

dear friends,
kalimpong, in fact the whole of north bengal and sikkim ,went thru a terrifying one week of exceptionally heavy showers in the beginning of sept2007...and we just escaped by the skin of our teeth..had it rained for just another 4-5 hrs at the same rate, there would have been disaster on an unprecedented scale.
of course, none of us living here are new to heavy rainfall...after all we live in an area which receives some of the heaviest precipitation in the country. what was scary was that the rain came in sep, when we had already been drenched for almost 4-5months by heavy downpours; (remember that in the period 25-27 jul2007 we received some really heavy showers and the NHPC Stage IV dam at nazoke went under water.) what was also scary was that within that week it rained more than it normally does in the whole of sep.
around 11sep some of us made a series of visits to some places close to kalimpong town to check the devastation and we were truly alarmed. as mr bharat mani pradhan put it, this time there was nothing dramatic as the teesta bridge being swept away as it was in 1968 but in terms of scale, the disaster this year seems bigger than in1968.
many of you will not be aware of this. some of u, may not even believe it! this site is therefore a desperate way of bringing our plight to the notice of concerned people all over the world and also to that of the national media, so that ultimately the state and the central govt and NGOs will take notice.
u see we are skating on very thin ice here... hills are sliding down, jhoras have burst their banks, buildings lie precariously perched-their innards having been disembowled by landslips...another heavy shower similar to the one we experienced in jul or the beginning of sep2007 and we will hit the world news headlines, and again for all the wrong reasons.
we have scant time, let us make haste.

the images on this blog are by mr chinlop lepcha, mr um pradhan, mr mahen pradhan, mr gm pradhan and yrs truly..

praful rao


Vimal Khawas said...

The catchment of Teesta river basin (including sikkim, darjeeling-kurseong and kalimpong hills) has with it, valleys extremely prone to cloudbursts, landslides and flash foods. Further, deep and dense gullies and associated streams; rapid toe erosion; loose, jointed and fractured rocks and high intensity of rainfall in Teesta Basin have compelled experts to believe that probably Teesta is the wildest river in whole of the Himalayan Region. The landscape of the valley is being continuously reworked by natural forces and majority of the present slopes have been formed by earlier landslides. Scientists say that the explosive character of the Teesta river basin can be attributed to intense rainstorms in the region. River Teesta floods its basin and the associated downstream area badly every year during the monsoon causing unprecedented human-environment-monetary misery.

Of all the Himalayan Rivers, Teesta has the highest sediment yield (measured near Anderson Bridge). It, approximately, brings down 98 cum of silt per hectare of its catchment per year giving an annual denudation rate of 9.8 mm per year. And surprisingly, this is among the highest denudation rates estimated for any river valley in the world. Scientists have estimated the average denudation rate for the Darjeeling Himalaya alone in the order of 0.5 mm to 5 mm during a normal year. However, during a year of catastrophic floods such as 1968, the denudation rate for that year can possibly go up to 20 mm. It is important to learn that monsoon rainfall is greater in Eastern Indian Himalaya than in its western counter part. Within eastern Himalaya again the rainfall is intense in Sikkim and Darjeeling Himalaya. The reason being: with the Rajmahal hills situated to the west and the Shillong plateau to the east there is no mountain range to protect the Teesta basom from the sweeping monsoon winds rising from the Bay of Bengal. As a result the summer monsoon directly hits the foothills and the lesser Himalayan ranges of Darjeeling and Sikkim and gives the Teesta Valley exceedingly high burst of rainfall ranging between 3000 mm to 6000 mm every year.

In total, there are both natural and human made factors that contribute widespread human insecurities in Sikkim-Darjeeling region every monsoon. The most important natural factors include: Steep slope with high relative relief, Seismicity, Groundwater flows accentuating landslips, Cloudbursts and intense rainfall events, Nature of the rocks (soft sedimentary, foliated metamorphic or fractured igneous), and Toe under-cutting by torrents & floods. The natural factors are often aggravated by anthropogenic activity such as: Depletion and degradation of forest resource, Extension of agriculture into steep slopes, Open cast mining without environmental control, Roads built without regard for geological factors and other forms of poorly planned development.

Vimal Khawas said...

The pasted link may be of relevance while we debate on the environmental situation in Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya.

Shadow said...


Thank you for putting these pictures and your comcerns up on the net. The pictures are remarkable for their clarity, and tragic in their detail.

I am a frequent visitor to Kalimpong. I love the area and have grown up in it, and would be happy to reccommend your blog link to India Travelogue which has a large viewership all over the world. I'm sure in fact, you could do this yourself, but if you wish I would gladly send your link with your permission. Regards, Shadow.