Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chapter 22.1.2 (on the Darjiling Himalayas)

Placed below are excerpts from the W. Bengal Govt website on environment
. The link is here

" The Darjiling Hill Region of West Bengal, comprising of the Darjiling, Kurseong, Kalimpong subdivisions of the Darjiling district covers an area of 2325.31 sq.km, which is about 73.8% of the total area of the Darjiling district and supports a resident population of 684818 i.e. 52.7% of the total population of the district. Being a part of the eastern Himalayan ecosystem it possesses all the attributes of eco-fragile Himalayan system i.e. weak geological formation, arrested succession, depreciation of vegetation etc. Besides, Darjiling Himalayas have a number of landslide zones, which further reinstates its status as an eco-fragile region.

In the absence of any major scope for industrial development except in the primary sector and in the face of stagnation of tea industry, it is obvious that the economic development of this area now depends on tourism to a great extent. But the growth of tourism has also ushered in unplanned urbanisation, illegal construction activities, large scale deforestation etc. The impact of anthropogenic interference is widest in the ever increasing incidences of landslides, choking of drainage channels and consequent soil erosion as well as water scarcity, destruction of ecological heritage etc.

The environmental impact of this demographic pressure is noted. The solid waste generated is estimated at 20 MT per day, while present infrastructure can cope up with only 5 mld. The sewerage system is reportedly connected with 5 septic tanks, of which two large tanks set up to handle 70% of sewage remains non functional. The solid waste is passed down the hill slope.

The municipal services remain ineffective with a critical profile of basic sanitation. Enteric diseases during monsoon season is well spread. Added to this, extensive urbanisation in the declared sinking zone (e.g. Alubari), landslips due to improper drainage, natural calamity, intensity of which are becoming more frequent after 1968 as the records of 1980, 1984, 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1997 bear testimony.

Construction activities are being carried out in the hill regions either illegally or with total disregard to building rules. Marginalised section of population have constructed shanties on unstable slopes and also on jhoras. These are likely to accentuate landslide activities in future. Besides, open defective drains leading into the jhoras and decomposing of garbage has lead to contamination of water. Due to mixing of garbage and sewage water with water sources, coliform bacteria abundant in water supply causing health hazards, specially in the human population along downstream area.

The West Bengal Government has recently set up a committee (under the agency of Ministry of Urban Affairs) to review the linkage between landslide occurrences and unplanned construction activities. Among the recommendations of the committee’s report which is being drafted at present, the two most important are :

  • Fixing Building heights at 11.5 m (G + 3 floor level)
  • Making construction of soakpits compulsory

A comprehensive hill area environment management plan is however yet to materialise."

comment by praful rao
I hate to say that much of what is stated above is true. The question is :-

What do we do?

(Italics in the above report are mine)


Anand Kumar said...

The excerpts from the W.Bengal Govt. website on environment is interesting and at the same time alarming. The weak and unconcerned administration and greed and need of the people has contributed to the acceleration and the aggravation of the damages to the eco-fragile region of the hills. We have to tackle the problem in holistic manner.

It is time for all the concerned departments to wake up if we want to arrest the damages and take proactive actions in all the sectors. You have created a pressure group to make authorities and the people aware of the land slide damages and it may be useful to expand the scope of your group to cover the disposal of solid waste, proper sewerage scheme with treatment plants and general environment impact assessment of all the projects including constructions. It is a tall order but assistance will surely come from all the sources for such important and ineluctable tasks. Do give it a thought.

Can you please give me the web site where I can access the details of the figures given in the excerpts. I am interested to analyze and verify the veracity of the statistics given.Once we are seized of the enormity of the problems, we can start looking for possible practical solutions.

savethehills said...

anand dai,
thank you for yr comment.
the link to the website placed at the beginning of the blog in YELLOW