Saturday, April 3, 2010

From "The Telegraph" on 03Apr2010

3 siblings killed in Cachar landslide
- Death in the mountains of the northeast OUR BUREAU
Silchar, April 2:
In the battle between Man and the mountains of the Northeast, the former continues to lose, sadly without seeming to learn a lesson, no matter what the toll in terms of human lives.
The latest disaster has come from Assam where three children aged 7, 5 and 2 were crushed to death after the side of a mountain slid onto their house in Cachar, wiping it out. Their parents, Deepak and Supriti Roy, who survived the catastrophe were seriously injured.
A torrential downpour — some 26 inches on the rain gauge — over the past few days loosened the earth leading to the tragedy at the reserved forest village of Paglanala under Dholai block in the state’s Cachar district.
In the reckless destruction of mountains — be it in the name of “development” or the creation of more “living space” — there have been instances of entire convoys of passenger traffic being stranded in the mountains of the region because of landslides.
Solutions to the problem, meanwhile, have been few and far between. Apart from widening roads and building guard walls — and these aren’t always enough to hold back a mountain quite literally on the move — Meghalaya, for example, has built tunnels through mountains, including a 120-metre construction through the Sonapur range in the state’s Jaintia Hills.
In Guwahati, the — Gateway to the Northeast — landslides have claimed scores of lives over the past years. “Most hills around the city are unfit for human habitation as they are made up of fragile, loose alluvial soil,” says Jiten Malakar, divisional officer of the state’s soil conservation department.
That, though, has not prevented Guwahati’s steadily growing population from occupying the city’s hills — legally or illegally, with laws such as the Assam Hill Land and Ecological Sites (Protection and Management) Act, a piece of legislation meant to prevent the destruction of hills leading just about nowhere in this mad scramble for land.
Worst of all, the Northeast’s real rains are yet to set in. The disaster in Silchar, for one, was caused by pre-monsoon showers that have lashed the region over the last few days. The worst then could be yet to come.

Italics are mine

Praful Rao

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