SaveTheHills(STH) is a group of concerned citizens who are raising awareness about landslides in Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya. Many landslides are the direct or indirect result of human interference and preventable if sufficient care is taken. As such, unless we begin a comprehensive and sustained program towards landslide management, prevention and mitigation, the consequences of ignoring years of human callousness will, in the future be devastating.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Landslide awareness workshop with North Bengal University students
Landslide awareness workshop by savethehills (STH) with Post Graduate Diploma (Disaster Management) students from the Centre for Development Studies,
9 Students (inclusive of 3 girls) and the technical officer Dr Sanjay Rana (PhD) of
On 28 Jan, the day was largely spent at Alaichikhop and Chota Bhalukhop, where the students were shown the damage caused by the Sep2007 rains in these areas. They interacted with the people of affected areas, took photographs and made notes. Possible causes of the slides were discussed with both the people of the areas and STH and the possible long and short term solutions were considered.
Later in the evening, Wg Cdr Praful Rao (retd) of STH gave a presentation on “The Silent Disaster” ie the landslide devastation of Sep2007. The other resource persons who spoke during the course of the evening were, Mr Bharat Mani Pradhan, Member STH, Dr Kishore Thapa (PhD) environmental activist, Mr Bishnu Chhetri, Secretary Farmer’s Club and Member STH and Dr Sanjay Rana.
On the whole what was clearly evident was the total absence of any type of landslide prevention work in all the areas visited.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Decades of neglect..and the wages of sin
Chibo bustee, Kalimpong,
Only, some geologists who visited the area decades ago throw their hands up in dismay since none of their recommendations made years ago has been implemented and the situation has only gone from bad to worse.
The unfortunate part in all this is that, the village comprises of approx 5000 people living in 1200 houses or so which are spread over a large farming area and as the photographic evidence (of Jan2008) shows much of the area is doomed UNLESS comprehensive landslide prevention measures are taken urgently.
Three large mountain rivulets (jhoras or kholas in this case) and a large number small tributaries plough thru the Chibo/Pashyor area.
The biggest and most destructive is Magar khola/jhora (labelled 'C' in slide 1). The damage done by this jhora is immense and threatens the entire Pashyor region. When I visited Pashyor (refer blog of
The other two big jhoras which ravage Chibo are
Chibo school khola and its tributaries, after chewing up a large section of middle Chibo ends up at Chitrey where it has severely damaged National Highway 31(NH31) and the Teesta - Kalimpong road (just before joining the Teesta river as a tributary.)
Suffice it to say that NOTHING has been done by way of preventive work against landslides in this whole area for decades and what this entire area faces is nothing short of extinction in the foreseeable future.
What could have been achieved by timely intervention will now require a huge injection of funds and a comprehensive approach which will look at the drainage problem, afforestation, farming methods and land usage, impact of human settlements on the land and so on...
Slide 2 shows a close up of Magar jhora/khola and the destruction it has caused; slide 3 shows the situation at Chitrey where the Chibo school jhora has severly breached part of NH31 and also threatens the road from Teesta to Kalimpong.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Some wonderful news
In my meanderings since the last monsoons (Sep2007), not over mountains but on the internet and while leafing thru pamphlets and magazines one name which came up very often was that of Leszek Starkel. Then I came across "Rains, landslides and Floods in the Darjeeling Himalaya", a book published by the Indian National Science Academy and co-edited by Professors N Sathyamurthy, S Basu and L Starkel.
To cut a long story short, Professor Leszek Starkel is a full member of the Dept of Geomorphology and Hydrology, Institute of Geography and Spatial Org, Polish Academy of Sciences, Krakow, Poland. He is the recipient of numerous international awards and leading international authority in this field. He has been studying landslides in this part of the world for many decades.
I sent him an email some time back and got a reply from him a few days ago.
I reproduce a part of the Professor's reply below:-
Dear Mr Rao,
Before Christmas I got your mail with long set of information
about landslides and activity of your team in Kalimpong. I am very
impressed by your work and I am ready to cooperate with STH
I arrived first time to
catastrophic rain and surveyed many landslides in
Kurseong division. In last years I try to come every year. In 2004
with prof. S.R.Basu from
seminar on landslides till Gangtok. I continuosly monitor great
Ambootia landslide. Last November with prof. S.Sarkar from NBU
we continued studies on floods in Doars from Lish-Gish-Chel upto
Torsa and Jainti rivers. I know that near
were formed new slides but I was on the way to Meghalaya and
had no time to go there. Very important are the rainfall records
(daily!) from September 2007 and I would be glad to receive them
from Darj. Planters Assoc.
I hope to come again in November this year to
suggest to meet you in Kalimpong and
With kind regards
____________________________________I am glad that a leading international figure appreciates the work of savethehills.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
A warning ignored
134 wake-up calls, all on deaf ears
Calcutta, Jan. 12: If only the fire services department had acted on any of the 134 appeals from a tenant in Jamunalal Bajaj Street, between July 2004 and September 2005, today’s fire at the Nandaram market complex may have been averted.
“There is a fire waiting to happen here… Through The Telegraph we would like to appeal to all concerned to act before it is too late,” wrote Suresh Somani on February 4, 2007.
Somani had petitioned every senior official in the fire department. He had written to fire minister Pratim Chatterjee six times, emailed him 10 times, faxed him 20 times and visited him seven times to highlight the tragedy waiting to happen in Burrabazar. He had paid 50 visits to the director-general of fire services, besides writing him five letters and sending 20 faxes.....
In all, Somani had sent 77 letters, emails and faxes to officials in the fire services department and visited them 57 times, all within 14 months.
“We fear official help will only come to us after a disaster happens,” Somani had written.
That disaster happened early today, in the buildings adjoining Somani’s.
“Hundreds of people have lost their only source of livelihood in the fire. If only the authorities had heard our pleas,” lamented Somani.
It is ironic that we in the hills are facing an identical situation today. With approx 5 months after the last monsoons and and equal time before the next one:-
a) We have posted photographs, reports and stories about the near disaster we suffered in Sept2007 on this blog and in many other sites.
b) The media has covered the issue ad nauseam.
c) We have written to the local authorities (District Magistrate and the Chief Principal Secretary, DGHC) a number of times to which all we have received a wall of silence.
e) We have held a demonstration demanding preventive action against landslides
f) We have shown the evidence to scientists from the Geological Survey of India (GSI).
Yet nothing worthwhile has happened on the ground. With barely 4 months to go for the next monsoons, "schemes" are still being submitted to the District Authorities for "approval" and I ,for one, am sure that some areas which I have seen will certainly collapse..so are the people whose houses are located in those areas.
It is ironic that the only people who don't believe this are those who are sitting in plush offices surrounded by their fawning minions.
It is a pity that in Sep2008 one may once again read another Headline in the Telegraph saying
"Wake-up call, falls on deaf ears"
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
08Jan2008: A day well spent (at Kalimpong)
ATREE (Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment),
Reena had given me a one day slot for the landslide awareness workshop and the day began at 0900hrs with a power point presentation in the class room. Thereafter, after an early lunch, the entire day was spent visiting a number of landslide zones in and around Kalimpong in 3 vehicles hired for the purpose.
The children interacted with affected people, saw for themselves the devastation caused by the Sep2007 rains and were shown jhora training work.Both in and out of the class room many, many issues relating to climate change and protection of the environment were discussed. All in all the children enjoyed themselves.
However, besides the enjoyment factor, I am satisfied that at the end of the day I left behind 34 young ambassadors of savethehills who are aware of the fragility of our beautiful mountains and the urgent need to protect it.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
A comment to put us to shame
"may the new year move the apathy of people more than it has moved the mountains downhill..."
what a pity!
and we have just 4 months to go