The Principal Secretary,
Preventive/Mitigation measures in management of landslide disasters in the
In keeping with the Prime Minister’s words regarding a need to shift the focus of disaster management from a “relief-centric” and “post-event” response to “a regime that lays greater emphasis on preparedness, prevention and mitigation”, (PM’s inaugural address in the first Disaster Management Congress, New Delhi, 29-30Nov2006) it is necessary to put in place preventive and mitigation measures to minimize loss of life and property in the event of landslides in the Darjeeling hills.
Therefore, rather than merely stating the obvious as the Darjeeling district administration has done in its website (http://www.darjeeling.gov.in/geography.html) – (Due to landslides) “ The future of the Darjeeling hill areas does not look very bright” – it is imperative to work towards finding a meaningful solution to the problem since unlike earthquakes, to quote the Vellore Declaration 2006 on Indian landslides , “many types of landslides could be avoided or prevented and catastrophes averted through instrumentation, vigil, healthy slope management practices and landslide education”.
The administration is, therefore requested to:-
- Identify critical and vulnerable landslide zones which if unattended to may in the future monsoons lead to loss of life and property.
- Investigate the cause of landslides in these areas (which in many cases simply boils down to drainage problems or jhora training).
- Take immediate preventive measures in these areas on a war footing so as to avert/ reduce landslides as far as possible.
Along with these firefighting measures it will also be necessary to develop a policy/strategy to tackle the serious problem of landslides in the long-term in keeping with all the facets of “Disaster Management” (as defined in the Disaster Management Act 2005) in mind. This, obviously, will require a lot of funds to flow in. Therefore, adequate safeguards must be in place to check corruption and ensure correct and effective utilization of funds.
In Sep2007, we escaped a near disaster. This is borne out by the body of evidence that is available in terms of hillsides which are sliding down, mountains which have developed fissures, farmlands which are devastated and buildings which are cracked and in danger of collapsing; to some extent these areas have been photographed and reports are available on http://www.savethehills.blogspot.com.
In all this, it may require the intervention of not only the government agencies such as the GSI, but NGOs and most importantly the public who will have to participate jointly in trying to prevent landslides since landslides like all disasters are also a social issue.
The essence of disaster management should therefore be anticipating and proactively trying to prevent/reduce hazard due to landslides while being fully prepared for rescue, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Unless these steps are taken with the utmost of seriousness and resolve, landslides will continue to extract insufferable toll in these hill areas.
The above letter was handed over in person to both the PS and the DM, Darjeeling by the undersigned at the end of our meeting with them at Circuit House, Darjeeling