Sunday, May 21, 2017

STH Activities with team of researchers from Colorado University (18May2017)

Prof Andrew Rumbach of Colorado Univ is an old Kalimpong hand (see 1 & 2) and is here for approx 3 weeks to research impact of urbanization and inherent risk to rural communities. He is accompanied by Mr Brian Sullivan and Ms. Izabela Petrykowska who are research assistants from the College of Architecture and Planning (CU), Denver
STH would be working with them in the Darjeeling/Kalimpong areas.

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Rainfall data of Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya - Apr2017

Synopsis of April weather.
We had the first cyclone of the year (Maarutha) brewing up in the Bay on 16Apr2017 but as predicted it affected Myanmar and a few north eastern states.
We had quite of lot of hailstorm activity in the region but no major damage was reported. We also published a mid-month bulletin on precipitation here.
A major landslide in Shimla caused quite a lot of sensation since a detailed video was uploaded on Youtube.

All maps are from IMD.

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Death in the Mountains (09May2017)

A thunderstorm in the morning of 09May2017 struck a huge region as can be seen in the satellite image below. In the Darjeeling-Sikkim region, the rainfall was not intense during the storm but associated winds at around 0900hrs IST, knocked down several trees on National Highway10 (NH10) which links Siliguri with Gangtok .
One of the trees crashed directly onto the driver's cabin of a truck plying on the highway at Melli, killing him instantly.
This is first death due to hydro-meteorological causes in the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya in 2017.
Rainfall at Kalimpong on 09May2017: 24mm

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling -Sikkim Himalayas

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Training program on "Earthquake and Landslide Management' at Darjeeling (20-22Apr2017)

The program is being organized by the Govt of W Bengal and SaveTheHills is facilitating the attendance of 6 participants from Kalimpong to attend the 3 day course. In addition, 4 civil engineering students from SMIT, Majitar (Sikkim) will be attending the event on 21Apr2017

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong dist.
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Sunday, April 16, 2017

STH Stormwatch : Cyclone 'Maarutha' is born (16Apr2017) and its early demise (Update of 17Apr2017)

The storm in the Bay of Bengal intensified into a full blown cyclone and was christened 'MAARUTHA' today. This is the first named storm of the 2017 Northern Hemisphere Tropical Cyclone season.

Update of 17Apr2017 (Extracts from JTWC bulletin)
JTWC has also issued its final warning on the cyclone considering it no longer significant.

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Friday, April 14, 2017

STH Stormwatch : The FIRST storm of 2017 (in the Bay of Bengal)

Location of Low pressure area is approximate

Update from JTWC  (1330h / 14Apr2017)
JTWC has upgraded the warning from LOW to MEDIUM and extract is reproduced below :-

Update of 15Apr2017 (JTWC)

Update of 15Apr2017 (IMD)IMD has categorized the storm as a DEPRESSION now (morning inference) and forecasts the storm to intensify further into a deep depression and move towards the north Myanmar coast in the next 72hrs

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rainfall data of Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya : March 2017

The precipitation of Mar2017 was a welcome phenomenon. In our region the rainfall,snow and even the hail was moderate with no landslides or casualties reported and the rain brought a relief from the forest fires, the acute water shortage and came as a welcome break for those involved in farming and horticulture.
And even though IMD predicts higher than normal temps in our region in the pre-monsoon period, temperatures here are below normal, ranging from cool to even cold.
It snowed in Sandakhpu , Darjeeling around the 11Mar2017 (see image below).

The most disconcerting event was of course the 4.5M earthquake of 27Mar2017 epi-centred 25km northeast of Kalimpong, near Pakyong (Sikkim) - see previous post.

Rainfall data collection and tabulation - Rohan Rao

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Monday, March 27, 2017

Earthquake report: 27Mar2017, NE of Kalimpong

Date of Occurence:
03:12:09 HRS(IST)
10 KM
Lat. 27.3°N Long.88.6°E

 As per the above report the intensity is 'Slight' but mark my words, we were jolted out of bed in Kalimpong by a strong but momentary shake  at approx 3.15am which knocked off the power supply for about 20 mins. The epicenter was 26.1km NE of Kalimpong, near Pakyong.
5hrs later at 8.10am, we have not received any report of casualties or damage.

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Saturday, March 25, 2017

How to convert your smartphone into an Early Warning (EW) device

1. I was tracking the storm (Slide 1) over Nepal last evening on this IMD website and had to resist an urge to post it on STH's  'Hazard Alert', What'sApp group because I was not too sure of the movement of the storm.
2. Having tracked storms on broad band internet for over 5 -7yrs now ( see 1, 2), I am cautious about creating panic or apprehension by uploading inaccurate weather forecasts - nevertheless because of the prevailing westerly upper winds, I was more or less certain that the storm would reach us if it did not dissipate elsewhere. Where I was wrong was in the timing - I expected the storm to reach us in 2 hrs.
3. Six hrs later, at 3.30am this morning, I was woken up by the sound of driving rain, followed by loud peals of thunder and lightning. A glance at the IR satellite imagery (Slide 2) on my smartphone told me that the storm had arrived over us.
4. It dumped almost 40mm of rain in as much time which gives an approx intensity of 60mm/hr - an intensity which can trigger off landslides if the precipitation is sustained.
5. But here is the bottom line :-
a. Updated satellite imagery (IMD updates its images every 30mins) together with cloud movement animation and other web - based info (like Lightning Location) can provide us with powerful tools to give us EW info on  storm movements.
b. Major weather events like cyclones and hurricanes give ample warning (5-6 days)
c. Minor weather events like local storms generated by micro-climates are often the only ones which do NOT show up on satellite imagery.
d. I rely a lot on IMD satellite imagery but there are many others which I hop to when IMD website is down (eg. Bangladesh and Nepal meteorological dept websites)
6. While all this is pertinent to hydrological events only, one need not wait for the next BBC weather bulletin to check the forecast
- instead just convert your smart phone into an early warning device!

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Friday, March 24, 2017

STH activity and all about bees (CNN)

From CNN (20Mar2017)

'Pollinators, a diverse group that includes insects and animals such as birds and bats, are under threat because of widespread pesticide use, climate change, the emergence of foreign pests, diseases and habitat loss. Between April 2015 and April 2016, beekeepers in the United States lost 44 percent of their colonies and in the UK, beekeepers reported losses of almost 17 percent, according to the British Beekeepers Association'.
Read full story here

Note :- The quote on 'Bees' on the image above is attributed to Einstein, but many believe that there is no substantive evidence that he did make this statement.

Praful Rao
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Monday, March 13, 2017

For the record : Rainfall (10/11Mar2017) in the Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya after 5 months of drought

As per STH records the last day it rained in this region (discounting N Sikkim) was on 13Oct2016, after which this whole area is in the grip of drought like conditions - leading to forest fires, water shortage and dust haze covering the area.
After almost 5 months of drought, a western disturbance passing thru this area gave welcome showers :-

a. 10Mar2017- 45mm (in Kalimpong)
b. 11Mar2017 - 7mm  (in Kalimpong)

There was also snowfall in Sandakphu which is the highest point in Bengal.

Praful Rao.
Kalimpong district

Monday, March 6, 2017

Inducting affordable ICT to empower ourselves : Drones for forest fire control

The reason for the forest fires becomes amply clear when we see the above rainfall map from IMD. Like much of the country, the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya is running almost 89% deficient in rainfall and the forests are full of tinder dry foliage.

Praful Rao,
Dist Kalimpong

Sunday, February 19, 2017

STH Activities: Attending two excellent seminars in Delhi (9/10/11Feb2017)

Event 1 : Mountain and the City at India International Center (Delhi, 09/10Feb2017)
You can read more about the seminar here
Event 2 : IMI's 'Meet of the Mountain States (MoMS IV) at WWF (Delhi, 10/11Feb2017)

 Brief writeup on Event 2

Fourth Edition of Meet of the Mountain States held in New Delhi
10 February 2017, New Delhi : The fifth edition of the Meet of the Mountain States organized by the Integrated Mountain Initiative was held today at WWF India Secretariat in New Delhi. The Meet deliberated on subjects of water security, skill development and disaster risk reduction in the mountains. The Meet was inaugurated by Hon’ble Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri Kiren Rijiju. Members of Parliament, Dr. Thokchom Meinya (Manipur), Shri Vincent Pala (Meghalaya), Shri Jitendra Chaudhury (Tripura), Shri. P.D. Rai (Sikkim) and former Member of Parliament Shri Tarun Vijay were also in attendance.
The Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI) is a civil society organisation formed in 2011, aimed at redefining the architecture of sustainable development across the 12 mountain states in the Indian Himalayan Region, comprising  10 states of Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir  and the hill districts of West Bengal and Assam. It is a collective initiative for recognizing the value of mountain regions and enabling people to realise its potential by integrating the knowledge and experiences of multiple stakeholders. IMI operationalizes this platform through its annual Sustainable Development Summits (SMDS) and Meet of Mountain States (MoMS) by engaging different stakeholders to come together and engage in informed debates on themes relevant to the mountain regions.
Shri Rijiju released the proceedings of Sustainable Mountain Development Summit V held in September 2016 in Leh.
Shri Rijiju stressed on the need to work in convergence to ensure sustainable development in the mountain regions of India. He also highlighted the dilemmas of livelihoods in the development context and environmental consequences of development facing the mountain cities which has led to severe damage in valleys of Kullu and Manali and hill cities of Mussoorie, Nainital amongst others.
As a part of the Meet, a legislators’ dialogue was also held. All Members of Parliament insisted on the need to focus on research in mountain subjects such as glaciology, hydrology, renewable energy, human-wildlife conflict and biodiversity.
Shri P.D. Rai also shared the path followed by Sikkim towards sustainable development. He also mentioned that the state is moving to build a legislation to mainstream the subject in all departments and amongst the citizens.
The Meet was convened by Shri Alemtemshi Jamir, President of IMI and former Chief Secretary of Nagaland. Several eminent leaders of the development sector from organisations such as FAO (UN), NECTAR, UNDP, NSDC, ICIMOD, SDC, WWF and senior officials from ministries and government departments were in attendance. There was rich sharing of ideas by the officials and the development agencies with respect to building collaborative action plan for mountain. They emphasized the need for stronger mountain partnerships and integration of sustainable development goals into mountain development. Skill development emerged as one of the areas where a lot can be done.
Dr Divya Nambiar from Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship spoke about theneed to prepare a ‘Sustainable Skill Development Plan for Mountain States’. It was pointed out that skill building needs to factor in the socio-cultural and geographical features of mountains and focus on self-employment and entrepreneurship. Therefore a Sustainable Skill Development Plan for Mountain States will come up with innovative new ideas to scale up skill training initiatives in the region in a manner that is responsive to local requirements and at the same time sustainable, over time. Importantly, it must also align with theaspirations of young citizens in the region.
Mr Shyam Khadka, Country Representative, FAO pointed out that Information on the mountain systems is very limited and hence establishingMountain Partnership could help generate this knowledge base which is limited tothe mountain communities at the moment. He also highlighted the need to fill knowledge gaps and community based solutions to problems in the mountain states, and that IMI must work on this aspect.
Mr Ravi Singh, CEO, WWF India also emphasized that to find solutions to the problems, communities must be integrated within the systems aimed at finding solutions and that their voices must be integrated into policymaking processes.  
Dr Sanjiv Nair, NECTAR, pointed out that Disaster risk reduction measures need to be community based and managed with micro insurance at community level
Mr Brij Mohan Rathore, Country Focal Person, ICIMOD spoke about creation of value chains for sustainable employment opportunities and entrepreneurship through network of entrepreneursin mountain states and trans boundary landscape programmes.
The need to focus on sustainable mountain cities and climate change was also a recurrent theme. IMI announced that the next Sustainable Mountain Development Summit which will be held in Sep, 2017 in Aizawl, Mizoram will take up these issues for further deliberation.
Members’ Conclave
First IMI Members’ Conclave was held on 11 February following the Meet of the Mountain States.
Members’ Conclave was a powerful congregation of individuals and institutions who are members of the State Forums or Chapters. It included deliberations of issues raised by members from different states, presentations by the state chapters where they highlighted the status of and the activities being carried out by the chapters.  IMI’s ongoing projects were discussed with all the members and strategy for the coming years was also discussed.
Sustainable Mountain Development Summit VI to be held in Aizawl, Mizoram was discussed with all the members. Dr. Lalbiak Ngente presented the concept of SMDS VI on behalf of Mizoram Sustainable Development Forum. All members made suggestions and committed to the organisation of the Summit. 

Visit IMI website here

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong District

PS: Kalimpong has become a district w.e.f 14Feb2017


Saturday, January 21, 2017

STH Activities (18/19Jan2017) : Participating in Project 'LANDSLIP' and an awareness program with Colby College (USA)

In the bottom slide (with Colby College) STH President is 1 and Prof Roy 2.

An excerpt from the Telegraph on Project 'Landslip' is reproduced below :-

"Darjeeling, Jan. 19:
An international science consortium has picked Darjeeling in north Bengal and the Nilgiris in south India to test a new mechanism for landslide risk reduction through better assessment, early warning systems, and improved community preparedness.
Scientists from India, Italy, and the UK plan to combine terrain geology with weather data to improve their understanding of landslide dynamics and use that information for risk assessment and alert local communities to potential hazard zones.
Tracts of the Darjeeling hills are highly vulnerable to landslides that have killed many people over the years. In July 2015, more than 40 people died or went missing in landslides across the hills. Some areas of eastern Sikkim will also be included in the project.
The scientists caution that their four-year project, funded by the UK's Natural Environment Research Council, the Department for International Development, through the Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience programme, does not seek to predict landslides.
"First and foremost, we are not predicting landslides. What we are doing is looking at and collecting information on landslide hazards," said Helen Reeves, the director of science for engineering geology with the British Geological Survey.
The Geological Survey of India, a major partner in the project, will provide the landslide data available for the area since 1899.
"One of the reasons for choosing this area is that data availability, landslide susceptibility, and varied terrain conditions," said Saibal Ghosh, the director of GSI. "Tea gardens here, too, have maintained rainfall data for decades and it will also be useful."
Bruce Malamud, professor of natural and environmental hazards at King's College, London, said: "The project will look at a combination of things such as elevation, geology, and landslide susceptibility. We are basically saying there could be an elevated chance here, and a reduced chance there."
The scientists plan to generate early warning systems to disseminate potential hazard information among local communities. The Italian National Research Council has already developed a forecasting system that regularly alerts local governments.
The India project will also seek to involve district administrations to reach out to communities, although the medium of communication is yet to be determined. "We will look for what best suits the local communities," said Malamud. "Maybe, we could work out a system that could use text messages, social (media), smartphones, radio, or other wireless systems."
Scientists from India's Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University, the UK Met Office, Newcastle University, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy, among other institutions are also collaborating on the project.
Praful Rao of Save the Hills, an NGO based in Kalimpong which is working on natural disasters, said: "The very fact that an international consortium is working on landslides in the region is a major development. This would lead to a better understanding and preparedness for risk reduction."
The project also plans to invite experts from Afghanistan to share experiences with regard to landslides."

Praful Rao,
Dist Darjeeling

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Good news for the Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya - an Event of Note (18Jan2017, Darjeeling)

After a relatively quiescent Dec2016, I am glad that 2017 is opening up with a visit to Darjeeling by a high powered group of scientists from the UK, Italy and India and all working on landslides.

STH will be attending the seminar on 18Jan2017 at Darjeeling.
You can read more about LANDSLIP here

Praful Rao,
Dist Darjeeling