Sunday, April 25, 2021

STH activities in the Darjeeling Himalaya Initiative (DHI) : Earth Day (22Apr2021) Workshop on 'Women and Disasters'

The Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS) is an annual event of the Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI) which is a pan Himalayan body comprising of Civil Society organizations and individuals from across the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR). The SMDS is also a flagship program of the IMI and is held in different states of the IHR each year.

The summit in 2021 will be held in the Darjeeling/ Kalimpong districts of W Bengal and Darjeeling Himalaya Initiative (DHI) will be hosting the event. SaveTheHills, is a part of DHI.
On 25Feb2021, IMI President, Mr PD Rai was with us in a brief ceremony (followed by a press release and lunch) held at Aapas Residency, Kalimpong where he formally handed over the SMDS Baton from Uttarakhand (2020 host of the event) to Darjeeling/Kalimpong. I accepted the baton as President of the Darjeeling Himalaya Initiative (DHI), which is the state chapter for West Bengal.

DHI, as a run up to the final program (SMDS -X) will be hosting a few smaller programs in the course of the year and the first such one we hosted was on Earth Day (22Apr2021)
Earth Day (22April2021)
We decided to hold an in person meeting on Earth Day at the Rotary Centre, Kalimpong and Ms R Vimala (IAS) District Magistrate of Kalimpong was our Chief Guest. Our theme was 'Women and Disasters'

What was specially apt was that all our speakers for the program were women and from our own region and not surprisingly most of the audience were also women.

In addtion to the above, we featured Ms Ahana Gurung's 15 min video on mainly landslide disasters and their impact on women and Ms Jyotsna Sitling (IFS)  - CPCCF, Uttarakhand and Mr PD Rai (President, IMI) spoke to the audience via video taped messages.

The entire almost 3 hour event was live streamed on the Kalimpong TV Face Book channel and was seen by a large audience.

DHI thanks Rotary Club of Kalimpong, KaNGON (Kalimpong NGO Network) and KTv for their support and help

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Kalimpong HImalaya

Saturday, April 17, 2021

First significant rain in the hills on 16Apr2021 after Oct 2020 and a lightning strike.

 The entire Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya (with the exception of north Sikkim perhaps) has been virtually bone dry since the SW monsoons withdrew from our region in Oct 2020 and it was welcome when we had rains yesterday. The thundershowers showers started in the afternoon at various places but by late evening it was over the entire region and continued well into the night with high winds, thunder and lightning. IR cloud imagery of the day is shown:

Rainfall data of the region (in mm) for yesterday is given below:
Gangtok 88, Pakyong 58, Cooch Behar 29.7, Kalimpong 25, Darjeeling 17.2, Siliguri 10.4 Mangan 8.4.
A lightning strike took place at Hanuman Mandir, Delo in Kalimpong

Widespread hail was also observed through out the region and it made parts of Gangtok look like Norway during Christmas time. (MG Marg Gangtok is seen below)

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The fires of April 2021

 The exceptionally dry weather has resulted in tinder dry foliage all over rural Kalimpong and Sikkim which in turn has caused numerous (mainly forest) fires in our region and the sound of fire trucks clanging their balls and rushing around is almost a daily happening these days in my town.
I had the nasty experience of one almost creeping into our compound three days ago; yesterday we witnessed a huge blaze at Deolo which is the highest point in Kalimpong. Luckily, the place is also the storage for the water supply to Kalimpong town so the could be brought under control with no loss of life or property.

Unfortunately, there is no indication that we will have rain in the near future and each day there are more fires taking place in Kalimpong

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

March 2021- Rainfall of the Darjeeling - Sikkim region

Praful Rao with Ms Shreya Gurung

Kalimpong district
Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya

Sunday, April 4, 2021

How a Himalayan Palm Civet got its head stuck in a plastic food container due to a landslide

 On 22Mar2021, at around 11.00am I was alerted that a strange animal which looked like a rhesus monkey (which are regular, unwanted guests around my home) had its head stuck inside a plastic container and was on a tree in the vicinity of my land at Tirpai, Kalimpong. I checked and quickly took some telephoto images of the helpless animal which I sent off to a friend and an official in the W Bengal Forest Department.
The animal turned out to be large Himalayan palm civet from the jungle bordering my home and it was apparently rummaging for food in the waste dump nearby. Having found an empty plastic food container, it climbed back onto the tree and tried eating some food inside the jar and in the process got its head stuck inside the jar which turned into a veritable noose around its neck which would slowly dehydrate and asphyxiate the beast in a most efficient and cruel manner.
The photos speak the rest of the story.
So how did the Himalayan civet nearly choke to death after getting its head stuck in a plastic container?
Well, that's the story of Kalimpong's unending waste disposal problem which started with a garbage dump landslide in Sep2007.
Some of the photos of the garbage dump are slides from presentations used by me at earlier occasions.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Follow up on the 14Oct2020 SHEAR Workshop on 'Exploring the potential of mobile phones and apps for the crowdsourcing of data and hazard communication' : STH experience in using Whats App as a tool in this regard

STH formed 'HAZARD ALERTS  or HA' a Whats App group 5 years ago with the intention of alerting communities in the Darjeeling-Sikkim region on hazards, heavy rain, landslides and other relevant serious environmental threats. Since then HA has grown to become a large (228 members) group with people from all walks of life and all over the world being members even tho the majority are from the Darjeeling-Sikkim region. We have approx 22 PhDs, government officials, army officers, students, farmers and a large number of media personnel and NGOs in the group.
On 14OCt 2020, STH had taken part in a SHEAR workshop on 'Exploring the potential of mobile phones and apps for the crowdsourcing of data and hazard communication' where we talked about our experience in HAZARD ALERTS and how it has grown into a major information and alerting hub in the region.
The 5 min long presentation on HA made by Dr Nima Doma Lama and myself is now on the SHEAR You tube channel
SHEAR has also written an academic paper and made a summary video that have now been published.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong District,
Darjeeling -Sikkim Himalaya

STH activities: Participating in IMI's Webinar on Current Disaster Discourse and Lessons from Chamoli (27Mar2021)

 IMI's ( 3 hr webinar on Lesson's from the recent Chamoli disaster in Uttarakhand was held online on 27Mar2021 with experts from Uttarakhand (Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology) as well as Dr Saibal Ghosh from GSI's GHRM, talking about the disaster.
STH helped pool in the resource persons as well as participated - talking about the need to standardize Landslide Reporting in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) using the Landslip Reporting form  and the Landslide Reporting App developed by Project Landslip .
Dr KR Vishwanathan, representative of Practical Action (India) spoke at length about the landslide reporting tools.

The webinar was attended by representatives of the State Disaster Management Authorities of Uttarakhand and Sikkim as well as IMI representatives from across the IHR.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

February 2021 - Rainfall of the region


We have been going steadily deficient in rainfall after the monsoons of 2020 and February 2021 was no exception - the first half of the month was bone dry thru out our region. Rainfall thereafter, was mostly restricted to SIKKIM and is published ( in mm) date-wise below:

15 Feb - Sankalan 3.8 Singhik 2.8 (North Sikkim)
16Feb - Mangan 7.1 Sankalan 5.6mm (North Sikkim) Gangtok 2.1 (East Sikkim)
             Damthang 5 (South Sikkim) Gyalsing 3.2 (West Sikkim)
17Feb - Mangan 21.3 Sankalan 24.6 Gyalsing 1
18Feb - Gyalsing 18.2
19Feb - Kabi 21.4
25Feb - Kabi 4.8
26Feb - Gangtok 14.8 Mangan 7.2 Gyalsing 6.4 Kalimpong 2 Darjeeling 1.3 Siliguri 3.5
27Feb - Gangtok 30.7 Mangan 28.3 Gyalsing 17.6 Dentam 11.8 Kalimpong 3 Siliguri 1.8 Darjeeling 0.2
28Feb - Gangtok 44.8 Mangan 38.3 Gyalsing 3.6  Namthang 2

Praful Rao with Shreya Gurung
Kalimpong district
Dajeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Visit by Dr Saibal Ghosh, GHRM - GSI regarding establishment of Landslide Early Warning System in Kalimpong district (16Jan2021)

Project LANDSLIP is a consortium of experts from UK, Italy and India which is working to enhance landslide-related hazard assessment in India at regional scales (e.g. >5 km2) in two main case-study regions, Nilgiris District and Darjeeling/East Sikkim Districts, focusing on weather patterns, landscape systems, rainfall thresholds and societal factors.
In doing so LANDSLIP has developed and established a prototype of a regional LANDSLIDE EARLY WARNING SYSTEM (LEWS) in Darjeeling district and in the Nilgiris which has started functioning in an experimental manner since the monsoons of 2020.
Dr SAIBAL GHOSH, Head of GEOHAZARDS Research and Management, GSI visited Kalimpong on 16Jan2021 to brief the District Magistrate, Ms R Vimala on GSI establishing a replica of the one Darjeeling in Kalimpong:

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya