Friday, April 18, 2008

Some questions to the Administration

As is known, the new Administrator of the DGHC, Mr BL Meena (IAS) has committed that landslide prevention will also be included in the priority areas of his administration along with electrification/health/roads and so on...
While welcoming this very positive stance here are some lingering questions which I would like to ask the Administrator:-

a) Have critical landslide prone areas in the district been identified where work has to be commenced immediately? (this work would mainly be jhora training/drainage repair etc)
b) Considering the govt machinery may not have the where with all to deal with this in the time available before the monsoons, does it plan to include NGOs? Have such NGOs been contacted?
c) Since the monsoons are barely a month away, what sort of post disaster (relief) measures are in place?
d) Have any landslide prediction equipment been installed in heavily populated landslide prone areas (eg Tungsung) as requested by STH in their letter to the CM last year?
e) On 02Nov2007 in a meeting with Mr A Purkayastha (IAS), PS, Disaster Management (Govt of W Bengal) at the Circuit house in Darjeeling, it was decided to induct HAM radios as a part of communication gear in a disaster scenario in the hills. STH had recommended that ex-army people be utilized to man this equipment, since they already have basic knowledge and training in wireless communication.What is the progress on this?
f) Having mentioned that disaster management experts should be consulted, can we have a rough time frame when will this be done?
g) The GSI and Dept of Science and Technology were in the district recently studying landslides, are their reports available with the administration?
h) Since the issues involved in landslide prevention is bound to be an immense task which will be beyond the scope of any one agency, will NGOs be included in the study and planning of landslide prevention work in the future?
j) One of the main issues regarding utilization of funds during the time of the previous administrator (Ghising) was the lack of transparency and the large scale corruption which ensued. Since landslide prevention has been neglected over the last decade in Darjeeling district, restarting it will involve injecting huge amounts of money, in agencies such as the irrigation department.What sort of checks and balances does the administration propose to have in order to ensure we don't have repetition of what happened under Ghising?
k) To deal with this huge problem which includes issues such as raising awareness against landslides/relocation of people/aforestation etc, one would expect government agencies and NGOs to network and share their expertise and resources. Experts in this field such as Dr RK Bhandari, Chairman, Centre for Disaster Mitigation and Management, Vellore Institute of Technology with whom STH is in touch may also be appointed as advisors.
Can we request the Administrator to call a such meeting where we may be able to combine our efforts and fight the hazard of landslides not only in the district but also in neighboring Sikkim and also other landslide affected areas?

praful rao

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