Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A warning and the Annual Report on Activities of STH in 2011

Having luckily survived a 6.9R magnitude earthquake barely 6 months ago we seem to have completely forgotten that we live in a hazardous area where we are constantly exposed to the twin disaster forms of landslides and earthquakes.
As such, having thrown all caution to the winds, we will be charging headlong into the south -westerly monsoons having wasted the precious dry period when much could have been done in terms of putting in place an early warning system and  shoring up our defenses and strengthening disaster preparedness.
What a pity that we never seem to learn....

Activities of STH in 2011

  1. Work with communities.
a)     In Feb2011, STH did make an effort to work with communities living in hazardous areas and for this we had earmarked DUMSI PAKHA which is a village of approx 300 houses just below Rockvale Academy. However, even after a number of visits there including taking visiting Prof and team from TISS, Mumbai, we came to believe that they were not interested.
b)     We also had a similar experience while working with the community in DHOBI DHARA where we even started a 10 day first aid training program at the Field Hospital in the army – which had to be abandoned due to lack of interest.

  1. Two documentary films on Landslides
a)     STH completed two documentary films on landslides in 2011. The first one was made with DECU of ISRO (Ahmedabad) and is a 20min film in English meant for primary schools – copies of the DVD have been sent to 50 schools in Darjeeling dist and Sikkim.
b)     The second film was made with the Magic Lantern Foundation and is about the impact of climate change on communities affected by landslides.
This film has been aired on local TV.

  1. Seminars and awareness programs
a)     STH held or participated in a number of seminars and awareness programs right thru the year; the major ones being :-
i)                    Seminar on Disaster perception and Mitigation in NBU (11/12Mar2011) when 90 odd delegates from the seminar visited landslide areas in Chibo/Pashyor.
ii)                  Summit on Sustainable Mountain Development (Nainital) 21/22May2011.
iii)                Media Orientation Workshop at Gangtok/Rumtek (01/02Jul2011).
iv)                Workshop on Landslides & Earthquakes at Kurseong with Prof Sunil Kr De (Tripura Central Univ) and Mamata Desai (NIAS, Kolkata) -25Sep2011.
v)                  2nd Indian Landslide Congress in Guwahati (15-16Sep2011)
vi)                Workshop at Tindharia, with Prof J Sankrityanan, and Prof Indira Lepcha of NBU (05Nov2011).
vii)              International Conference on Climate change and Sustainability in Mountain areas – organized by Sikkim Univ in Gangtok, Sikkim 07-10Nov2011.
viii)            Briefed H.E Governor of W Bengal and District Authorities  on STH perception of the 18Sep2011 earthquake and landslides -27Nov2011 (at Darjeeling).

ix)                Workshop on “Hazards&Critical Environmental Issues” at Townhall (Kalimpong) with  Prof Malay Mukul, IIT Mumbai-23Nov2011.

4.      Visits by Delegates
A number of teams and delegates interacted with STH during the course of the year. These were :-
a) Field visit by delegates from Dept of Geography, Univ of North Bengal to landslide areas in and around Kalimpong -19Mar2011.
b) Field visit to Balasun/Paglajhora landslides with Professors from Presidency Univ - 10May2011
c) Internship of 2 students from TISS (Mumbai)  and Vishwa Bharati (Shantiniketan) with STH – May2011 & Nov2011.
d)  Field visit by Profs Balamurugan & Samrat Sinha of JTCDM - TISS (Mumbai)  to earthquake devastated and landslide areas – Oct2011.
e) Field visit by Dr Ɓukasz Wiejaczka, hydrologist and geomorphologist  and colleague Polish Academy of Sciences, Kracow, Poland -18Nov2011

5. Other activities

a) Vetiver Grass
Vetiver grass is being used the world over as a cheap and effective way of checking soil erosion. As such STH successfully imported 10,000 saplings of vetiver grass from Kerala and distributed 15 sacks of the same to NGOs in the district. The survival rate is almost 60% and we have decided to go in for a much larger plantation in the landslide prone areas of Kalimpong sub-division this year.

b) SMS based early warning
The SMS based early warning we put in place together with IMD Gangtok worked wonderfully well throughout the duration of the monsoons in 2011. We have tied up with the same agency to expand the service so that the SMS reaches even a wider audience.

c) STH "Storm Watch" (2011)
STH tracked the development, formation and movement of each low pressure area, depression and cyclonic storm from various meteorological websites and posted warnings almost on a real time basis on this blog as a part of effort  to alert communities about heavy rainfall in this region.

Praful Rao

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