Monday, November 26, 2007

Niraj's Notions : Landslide Hazard Darjeeling hills

I had requested all concerned people to send points/ suggestions/ demands which "savethehills" could collate, compile and put up to the Chief Minister (CM) on his visit to Darjeeling last week.
As we all know, the visit did not take place, nevertheless we aim to complete the process and FAX the document to the CM.
Mr Niraj Lama mailed me the article below, in response to the request.
To many, Niraj needs no introduction.
To those who don't know him he was a fiery, many a time acerbic and brilliant young journalist who worked for the Statesman for years. After quitting the Statesman some years ago, he now freelances.
I certainly request for more points from everyone concerned so that we can send an exhaustive list of suggestions/demands to the CM as regards landslide hazard in Darjeeling District within this week.
(With permit from the author, I have had to edit this article at places.)

praful rao

1) The government had spent a lot of money several years ago engaging Netaji Insitute of Asian Studies to come up with landslide-zone mapping. Several expensive-looking colourful templates used to be stuck up in the office of one deputy magistrate for a long time (they could still be on the wall). The logical follow-up should have been relocation of people from such zones, while at the same time preventing any new settlements to come up.
Relocation is not a politically-comfortable idea, but given the nature of our geography it has to be looked into. WE NEED RELOCATION OF PEOPLE FROM IDENTIFIED VULNERABLE AREAS.
No ration cards for those staying in declared dangerous areas.

2) Our population growth has been exponential. The growth in Darjeeling town was astounding 40% plus between the Census of 1990 and 2001; the rural scenario cannot be too different. Even to the eyes, the cover of human habitations is spreading rapidly on the erstwhile undisturbed hills sides. POPULATION GROWTH CONTROL NEEDS TO BE PRIORITIZED. Health and Family Welfare department along with NGOs should launch a 20-year campaign, starting with the new year.
Any man bearing more than two children must go and work in the sewage reconstruction in Baghdad.

3)The maximum permissible height for construction should be made 11. 5 m (proposed by the state government) as opposed to 13.5 m (as desired by the hill municipalities). Building laws should be strictly implemented. This is a fit case for PIL, because tall buildings are public hazards. Also people building, and officially approving, tall buildings in the hills are mentally retarded and liable to commit other public damages.

4)Drainage system including jhoras and roadside drains needs to be cleaned and well maintained.

5) Modern waste-disposal system should be installed in towns and large settlements.

6) Load on trucks should be strictly regulated for which there are already laws.

7)Some forest land and tea land needs to be resumed to accommodate the expansion of the urban areas in the hills (the taking of Chandmuni tea estate for Siliguri's expansion is a precedent).

8) Massive afforestation in the denuded watercatchment areas.

9) Replace 40 per cent of the tea gardens and cinchona with commercial private timber plantations.

8)Finally, we should come up with a Vision Statement. We could call it Darjeeling Hills 2030. It is difficult to move ahead effectively if we don't have concrete goals, and these goals should be holistic. Approaching a problem from a single perspective does not serve the purpose of development. DGHC, state government, Centre, expert bodies and local NGOs to work on this one.

Niraj Lama

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