Monday, March 29, 2010

Revealing a hidden secret - landslides below Bong Bustee (village) and East Main Road (Kalimpong)

1. Much has been written and said about the Sindebung bustee (village) landslides which lie in the under-belly of Kalimpong, infact STH has regularly taken scientists, media people and students there and even produced a small video.
However, the landslides in lower Dungra and Bong bustees  (Map ‘A’) which lie below the most stable parts of Kalimpong ie (Bong Bustee and East Main Road area) have escaped such scrutiny and interest. The reasons maybe twofold :-

a) The area is inaccessible except to those who are prepared to slog it out on foot.
b) The people of the area, for some reason, have not spoken out.

2. On 27Mar2010, STH with the help of local volunteers trudged the area (Map ‘B’) on foot. The five hour trek revealed what was expected:-

a) The surface runoff rain water from the built up areas of town lying on the eastern face of the Kalimpong ridgeline (approx area circled in green - Map ‘A’) feed into a network of small tributaries which in turn empty into 4-5 major natural rivulets (or jhoras) which drain this area.

b) These major jhoras are causing intense scouring and loss of land to farmers in lower Bong and Dungra bustees.

c) Pasang jhora (Slide ‘1’) which emanates from the Baghdhara/ Mela ground area is a major cause of landslides in the Adhikari gaon and the people of the area have suffered major land loss here.

d) Gokulay jhora (Slide ‘2’) which originates from the Savitri Ghising road area in Bong Bustee is another major source of landslides in the area.

e) A smaller jhora called Naali Khola (Slide ‘3’) which originates from the SD hospital and then Gos Khan drains thru the Lower Dungra area and has caused some damage there. It is the source of a huge amount of pollution in this area since originates from a densely populated part of Kalimpong town.

f) The drainage from the Golf Course / East Main Road area has created huge landslide problems in the upper reaches - luckily in the lower areas, they pass thru areas with little or no population.

g) Villagers of the area said that almost the entire landslide problem was the result of the rains in 2009 and that prior to this period the jhora problem was not as acute.

3. As in the many other landslide zones visited the cause of landslides here is also wholly anthropogenic.
The pattern is now established and familiar – unplanned and rapidly expanding urban areas in the upper reaches causes a huge increase in the volumes of high velocity water flowing in the jhoras (natural drains) which are not designed to handle these volumes- this in turn causes erosion and landslides.

So if we humans are causing the landslides…it is upto us to try and prevent and mitigate them – and having seen the scale of devastation that is taking place in these mountains, I can predict that should we continue to neglect this issue as we are doing, much of our landscape will change not in a 100 years but in the next 15-20 years.

Praful Rao

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