Friday, April 25, 2008

A letter to Sikkim

The landslide problem is common to Sikkim and the Darjeeling Himalayas and the monsoons afflict both these areas with equal severity as it did in Oct 1968 and then again in Sep2007 and perhaps in the years ahead...
This is my letter to Mr ND Chingappa (IAS), Chief Secretary, Govt of Sikkim, Gangtok, Sikkim (faxed and confirmed received at his office today).

Landslide Hazard in the Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas

Dear Mr Chingappa,

As you would know, in Sep07 the whole of Darjeeling district and Sikkim received a terrible lashing by the monsoons and much damage was sustained in both the regions due to landslides. Subsequent to this we, in Darjeeling district formed SaveTheHills, which is a group of people trying to raise awareness about landslides in this part of the world and also demanding proactive steps to prevent this hazard by the government and NGOs.

From our experience thus far we have concluded that:-

a) Most of the landslides which have taken place in the recent past are the direct or indirect result of human action on the environment. As such this hazard must be combated by amongst other things, a massive awareness program in the entire hills of this area.

b) Experts such as Dr RK Bhandari, Centre for Disaster Mitigation and Management (CDMM), Vellore Institute of Technology must be brought in to offer short and long term solutions to the problem of landslides.

c) As per the Geological Survey of India, the nodal body looking after landslide hazard in the country, the entire region of Darjeeling district and Sikkim is the most landslide prone area of the country. The fact that global warming and climate change will only increase this hazard makes it more imperative to work together and with haste towards prevention of this common hazard.

d) Years of neglect by ignoring the hazard, underestimating the seriousness of the problem and non implementation of preventive measures has brought the whole area into a situation which is both serious and perilous – any further delay in taking proactive steps at the government and NGO levels will spell doom to the peoples living in large parts of these hills in the near future.

With all these factors in mind, it will be only apt to conduct a workshop on landslides and disaster management, drawing in experts, NGOs and concerned government departments of the Centre and State as soon as is possible. I understand a work shop was organized in 2004 by the Indian Institute of Geomorphologists (IGI) in Gangtok but what was the eventual outcome of the exercise is not known to me.

Since Sikkim as a state will have all the resources to bring together such a meeting. May I request you to kindly take the lead in this respect?

Please visit to have a look at reports, letters, issues and photographs which have emerged from our 6 month long study of the landslide problem in the hills of Darjeeling district.

Yours Sincerely

(Praful Rao)

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