Monday, June 24, 2013

Darjeeling & Sikkim - queuing up for the next 'Himalayan Tsunami'

Do you notice the uncanny similarity between images of the 'Himalayan Tsunami' of mid-Jun2013 (placed on the LHS) and those from the Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya (on RHS)?

Here are 10 reasons why the Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya could also suffer the same fate as Uttarakhand :-
  • Our geographical location on the southern most part of the Himalayan arc is unique. As such the Darjeeling – Sikkim Himalaya is situated barely 800km north of the Bay of Bengal, which brews up 5-7 cyclones or depressions annually.
  • Due to our location, our average annual rainfall is approx 3000mm, double that of Uttarakhand (1523mm) and 3 X the national average.
  • Rainfall pattern has shown a perceptible change in the recent past – extremes in rainfall being more the norm than an exception (In May2013 we had double the monthly rainfall but Jun2013 has been largely dry till date)
  • We have a long history of landslide disasters viz Sep 1899, Jun 1950, Oct 1968, Sep 2007, Cyclone AILA in May 2009 and 18Sep2011 (earthquake induced).
  • Geological Survey of India (or GSI, the nodal Govt. body looking after landslides in India) categorizes our area as amongst the most landslide prone in the country.
  • In the recent past, there has been phenomenal developmental activity much of which has been unplanned and haphazard, paying scant heed to building codes etc.
    More than 30 dams have been constructed or are planned in the Teesta river basin.
    Also the tremendous rural to urban migration has resulted in our major towns showing signs of severe distress with basic civic facilities such as potable water, public latrines, solid waste management and most importantly, drainage being on the verge of collapse. Densely populated colonies have sprung up on unstable and unsafe slopes.
    Non-engineered roads constructed on a massive scale all over the region by poorly trained or unemployed petty contractors will be a major cause of landslides in the future.
  • Both Darjeeling and Sikkim have large scale influx of tourists, many more than the pilgrims who were caught up in the Uttarakhand disaster.
  • Densely populated settlements and towns such as Rangpo, Singtam, Majitar, Melli, Jorethang have comeup along banks of rivers ie Teesta and Rangit.
  • As population increases, forest cover has reduced all over the region
  • Even after the earthquake of 18Sep2011, disaster management has received little priority in this region.
    Photo credits of Darjeeling/Sikkim :
    Kundan Yolmo, Sikkim Express, Das Studio
    Photos from Uttarakhand obtained from the internet.
Praful Rao,
Darjeeling District.

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