Friday, September 20, 2013

Lucky number 7 : STH's 7th anniversary, this week.

This is our 7th year and considering the fact that the South Westerly monsoon has been mild  in SHWB (Sub Himalayan West Bengal) and Sikkim Himalaya this year, we should consider ourselves lucky. That said, below are some of our accomplishments over the years :

  • STH now has three documentary films based on landslide hazards. In 2009 we worked with the mass communications department of St.Josephs's College, Darjeeling and then in 2010 we made two documentaries, one with the Development and Educational Communcations Unit (DECU) of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and another with the Magic Lantern Foundation.                                                                                               
  • As part of our effort to make communities aware, STH has now participated in and conducted more than 80 awareness programs/seminars and workshops in schools, rural areas and universities.

  • In our Stormwatch series (since 2009) STH has reported the development and tracks of all major weather systems in the Bay of Bengal thanks to the IR imagery and information on several excellent websites using broadband internet; we sent out early warning emails when necessary.                                                                                                                                            
  • We now have an automatic rain gauge in Mangan (North Sikkim) along with the three others in Kalimpong,Darjeeling and Kurseong. Monthly rainfall reports are published for these towns and few others (from for those interested in the hydrology of this area.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
  • Since 2007, most of the major landslides in the vicinity of the SHWB and Sikkim have been documented on our blog 'Visions of Hell' with probable cause and effect, in an effort to highlight the severity of this disaster form in this region. 

  • Members of STH met the honourable MP of Darjeeling Shri Jaswant Singh for the second time in 07Apr2013. In the discussion followed that day STH made certain suggestions and requests regarding the landslide sitiuation in the hills of Darjeeling which can be found here.                                                                                                                                                                                                 
  • In Dec2012 , we had a senior geologist from the GSI (Geological Surveyof India)  Mr.Debashish Bhattacharya in Kalimpong for 10 days. It was our pleasure to have him with us whilst we did a recce of all the landslide sites in the vicinity of the Kalimpong Sub-division. Such visits if more regular will create a greater understanding of landslides and the hazards associated with them.                                                                              

  • STH has also done a substantial amount of work in the field of CBDRM (Community Based Disaster Risk Management), in some of the major landslide prone areas in Kalimpong ( Chibbo/ Pashyor, Dumsi pakha , Dhobi Dara).
    Having watched the response to the 18Sep2011 Sikkim earthquake and the recent Uttarakhand disaster, we will have to intensify our work with the communities since they would largely have to cope with future disasters on their own at least for a limited time period.



  • We successfully imported 15,000 saplings of non-aromatic Vetiver grass (very effective at controlling soil erosion ) and distributed it amongst 15 NGOs in the district.The results have been quite positive with 60% survival rate and we hope to go in for a much larger plantation in landslide prone areas in the Kalimpong sub-division in the future.
  • We have worked with the NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) in conducting and coordinating training workshops (see here and here). Recently, we also did a workshop for the WB SDRF ( State Disaster Response Force ) in which we covered causes and effects of landslides, followed by field visit to landslide affected areas in Kalimpong.                                                            
  • In 2009 STH won the Manthan award ( for best practices in e-Content and Creativity ) which includes all SAARC countries. This year we've taken a step further by being the only NGO from India to be listed among the Six finalists in InterAction's  " FEDEX Award for Innovations In Disaster Preparedness". On 12Sep2013 we took part in a webinar in which all six finalists gave short presentations on their innovation and how it benefits the targeted community, excerpts from that webinar can be found here.                                                                
  • Our blog "Visions of Hell" has more than 570 posts, has been viewed more than 101,020 times by a world wide audience and is a mammoth resource and a historical archive on landslide disasters in the Darjeeling- Sikkim Himalaya.
    All data and material on our blog is available free of cost for non-commercial use.
Though the task ahead is daunting, STH is slowly inching towards its principal objective which is the prevention, mitigation and management of landslide hazards in the Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalaya.
By enhancing public / government awareness and building capacity we can increase the resilience of our mountain communities towards landslide disasters and learn to live better with a disaster form which is as old as the mountains. 

Rohan Rao,

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