Sunday, August 17, 2008

Almost one year later....



Almost a year ago, following the Sep07 rains I visited many areas in the vicinity of Kalimpong where landslides had caused havoc.

This year, till date we have been lucky ; Jul2008 rainfall data showed that we had received just half the rain of Jul2007.
And August 2008 also seems to be holding out pretty well..
or is it?
The rainfall data of two days is placed below:-

Rain fall data:-
15Aug2008- 29mm

16Aug2008- 47 mm

Yesterday, after almost a year, I visited two landslide areas close to my home, several hours after the rains had stopped. At both places, the slides were still active and one could hear the now familiar rumble as loose rocks and mud crashed into the rivulet (jhora) below.

At Bhalukhop, I was, therefore, rather surprised when I saw an elderly lady (slide1) and her granddaughter deftly negotiate (slide 2) a rain gorged rivulet and landslide.... when she came over to me, she complained that road to her home had been washed away by the jhora (slide3) and that now she had to take this lengthy detour and then with absolute certainty and equanimity she also told me the ground where we stood would also "go" in the days ahead...

At Soureni, I met a village lady (slide 4) who informed me that a new slide (slide5) had opened up next to her home at 4.30AM that day. She said in Sep07 (slide6), the slides had destroyed all her arable land and that she and her husband had to support their children by working as laborers (coolies). The govt had paid her Rs2000/- (approx $45) for the land loss.

Here are some points worth noting :-
a) In Jun2008 slightly higher than average rain caused major problems (refer posts of 24, 29 and 30Jun2008).
b) In Jul2008, we had less than normal rainfall (200mm short) so no landslide incident took place.
c) In Aug2008, just two days of slightly heavy rain caused activation of the above slides and I am very sure many other landslides in the district which we will never come to know of-

since landslides, like mountains and momos have been a part of our lives for a long time now..
we take this hazard for granted!

What we ought to remind ourselves is that,
whereas hazards maybe natural,
disasters are not,
and landslide disasters
especially, are to a large extent preventable.

(Both Soureni (refer post of 27Sep07) and Bhalukhop (refer post of 07Apr08) have been featured in STH earlier.)

praful rao

1 comment:

mole said...

Was thwarted by the bismel landslide short of Singtam on my way to Gangtok on the 16th. I've been driving the Malli - Ramphu stretch for a good number of years and the signs are ominous. The highway passes below Bhalukhop and Sangsay and what used to be a great drive through a pristine forest has now become something of a dodgy steeplechase. What is remarkable is that now one can see mudslides bursting through the forest cover, spilling out over and beyond the highway. At one section I could see a dozen spring gushing out from the retaining walls above the road.
Until now, one always assumed that the forest above the highway on this stretch held the land firmly but this does not seem to be the case any more.
My educated guess would be that the causes are threefold: (i) uncontrolled logging above the cosmetic tree line along the highway (ii) load on the highway due to increase of traffic and (iii) poor conservation and protection work in the inhabited areas above the forests.