Thursday, September 18, 2008

A letter to the NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority)

Briefly for those interested, the National Disaster Management Authority (link
here) is chaired by the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, the Vice-Chairman is Gen NC Vij (retd) and the person dealing with landslides and the states of W. Bengal and Sikkim is Dr Mohan Kanda ,IAS (retd).
This is my email to Dr Kanda today :-


Dr Mohan Kanda,
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA),
Centaur Hotel,
Near IGI Airport,
New Delhi 110037

Initiation of landslide preventive measures in the Darjeeling Himalayas during the dry season from Oct08 to Jun2009

Dear Sir,

By way of a brief introduction, I am the convener of SaveTheHills (STH), which is a group of people working towards raising awareness about landslides in Darjeeling district. We formed STH, after a near disaster situation last Sep when torrential rains triggered off massive landslides in the Darjeeling/ Sikkim Himalayas.

2. The Darjeeling Himalayas comprise some of the most landslide prone areas in the country and is also today, a densely populated area. I daresay, that landslides seem to be a hazard which receives the least attention in disaster management perhaps due to the fact that it affects lesser numbers and then, even those affected ie the people living in these hills are apathetic and accept the hazard as a part of life in the mountains.

3. With an annual rainfall of 3000mm, landslides may well be a part of life in the Darjeeling Himalayas and it may be practicably impossible to prevent ALL landslides. But as you would agree, a consistent, multi-pronged and aggressive attack against this hazard can prevent a large number of landslides, mitigate many others and also delay/decrease erosion in these mountains to a significant degree. Sadly, such a holistic approach towards landslide prevention (involving awareness programs, short to long term landslide prevention measures, such as afforestation, correction of drainage problems etc) has never been undertaken in these hills and is definitely the need of the hour.

4. This year we have been lucky thus far; as rainfall has been less than the monthly average both in July and August and except for some landslides in the month of June we have remained virtually unscathed. But this should not lull us into a false sense of security. In the NDMA meeting held in Shillong on the 10-11Jun2008, it was clearly told that we should expect an increase in rainfall to the tune of 20-30% in the northeast, in the years ahead, while at the same time the number of rainy days would decrease, causing more intense rainfall. So rather than remain inert during periods of less rain or in the ensuing winter months, it is now that we must work overtime to buttress up our defenses against landslides in the future.

5. In this regard, may I bring to your notice that “the paradigm shift” to prevention, mitigation and preparedness is yet to see the light of day at the district and subdivision level where disaster management is still limited ONLY to “relief”. Despite STH shouting hoarse about landslide prevention for a year now, literally no preventive work or awareness programs have been done in the whole district. The sharp increase in the number of anthropogenic landslides have only added a new dimension to our problem, with landslides creeping into our densely populated urban areas .(sketches of landslide areas in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik towns are available at

6. With the monsoons almost over, it is most important that we take full advantage of the dry period (Oct08-June09) ahead and initiate landslide prevention measures immediately so as to be better prepared for the rains in 2009 and later. Alarm bells have already been sounded by several prominent scientists about the dire state of the hills, and enough valuable time and money have been frittered away in workshops, meetings and surveys - the recommendations of which have seldom been implemented. Therefore, it is high time that a sustained landslide prevention program together with an intense awareness campaign be commenced at the grass root level (ie district and sub-divisional level) in Darjeeling district without further delay, if we are to avoid a major landslide disaster in the hills in the foreseeable future.

Yours sincerely,

(Praful Rao)
Wg Cdr (retd)

Copy to:-
a) Gen NC Vij (Retd) - Vice Chairman, NDMA

b) Shri KM Singh (Retd) – Member , NDMA

c) Shri ML Meena(IAS), Principal Secretary, Disaster Management Dept,Govt of West Bengal

d) Shri Surendra Gupta (IAS)-District Magistrate, Darjeeling


comment by praful rao

Hard copies of the above email have been couriered to all the above addressees and should be on their respective desks latest by Monday, 22Sep2008

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