Saturday, November 27, 2010

From the Newspapers today (27Nov2010). DARJEELING: Illegal urban construction posing natural disaster threat to Darjeeling

Frymal village, Darjeeling (Cyclone Aila May2009)

Darjeeling (West Bengal), Nov.27 (ANI) : The massive construction of high-rise buildings, a majority of them illegal, has led to a degradation of the soil texture in the Darjeeling Hills area of West Bengal state, and has made the place vulnerable to landslides, feel experts.
A series of landslides has hit Darjeeling and its surrounding areas since May 2009, triggered off by overnight rains and floods.
Local builders seem to have ignored this threat and public concern.
Talking to media persons about the problem, West Bengal Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Minister Ashok Narayan Bhattacharya said the state government has asked the local civic body to take measures to curb illegal construction.
“There is no reason behind the illegal construction. The builders are violating the rules. There is no fear of government in Darjeeling. Nobody has been caught till now. Now, the situation is improving. The situation will only improve when the municipal authorities work together with the local people,” said Bhattacharya.
Geologists say the construction of unauthorized buildings coupled with improper drainage systems has led to landslides in the region in the past.
“Since the end of 1970s and beginning of 1980s, there has been a real estate boom in all countries, and Darjeeling is no exception. There are now innumerable high-rise buildings, and, I do not know whether a building restriction rule still exists. There is no one to look after this. I do not know how they (the builders) are getting no objection certificates for constructing eight to nine-storeyed buildings in the hills,” said Subir Sarkar, a meteorological expert.
Situated at a height of 2,134 meters, Darjeeling was developed as a hill station by the British, who wanted to escape the heat of the plains.
As time passed, Darjeeling town has emerged as a tourist destination.

- Excerpt from Himalayan Beacon of 27Nov2010

Praful Rao

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