Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Documentary film on Landslides

Nine final year students of the Dept of Mass Communication, St Joseph's College, North Point - Darjeeling (which included students from Darjeeling, Sikkim and Bhutan) were here in  Kalimpong on 27Oct2009 - they are working on producing a documentary film on "Landslide Hazards in the Darjeeling district". Besides doing an exhaustive interview on the subject, they discussed the causes and effects of landslides with STH. The documentary is being being made for the  Montage College Film festival at the college on 28Nov2009.
We intend to collaborate with the Mass Communication Dept of the college during the ensuing monsoons with the intention of producing a high quality documentary on landslides

Praful Rao

Monday, October 19, 2009

An invitation for the 2nd India Disaster Management Congress in Delhi (04Nov-06Nov09)

STH (with a lot of help from the affected people of Chibo and Pashyor) had in the first week of Sep2009 submitted a paper to the 2nd India Disaster Management Congress (IDMC) about the vulnerability of  Chibo - Pashyor to landslides and the urgent necessity for a long term solution. The same has been accepted formally as a part of the documentation for the Congress.
As such STH has officially been  invited to the Congress and I will certainly attend the IDMC2.

Praful Rao

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rainfall peaks : 2009

Technically the SW monsoon completes it withdrawal from this part of the world on 12Oct and judging by the fine weather we have been experiencing for the past few days, I just hope it is so.
Placed above is an approximation of the rainfall pattern in 2009, the consequences of which are given in brief below :-

(A) 25-27May2009.
We experienced a direct hit by Cyclone AILA which dumped as much as 350mm of rain in 3 consecutive days. The western parts of Darjeeling district (Kurseong and Darjeeling) suffered the most damage - 27 persons died in landslides and roads, tea gardens and infrastructure sustained immense damage.
(B) 02July2009.
Kalimpong received 112mm of rain in a single day. Even though there was only one death, Nimbong and Pabrintar in Kalimpong subdivision were severely affected by landslides. It took more than a week to restore the Nimbong-Bagrakote road which is the life line for people living in the area.
(C) 15Aug2009.
A single day's rainfall amounted to 152mm. 6 persons died in Kurseong and there was significant damage to houses and infrastructure.
(D) 19Aug2009.
Coming within 4 days of the above rainfall, the 198mm of rain on 19Aug caused immense damage. Chibo/Pashyor remain isolated from Kalimpong as on date (14Oct) with roads and bridges having been washed away by the deluge.
(E) 07/08Oct2009.
36 hrs of rainfall brought in 280mm of rain. However, there was no report of any major damage or death, most probably due to the fact that Sep2009 was largely dry and the moisture content in the earth had decreased significantly.

Detailed reports (with images) on all the above incidents can be found in earlier blogs

Praful Rao

Thursday, October 8, 2009

36hrs of hell (06-08Oct2009)

Rainfall data for Darjeeling and Kalimpong for approx 36 hrs(06-08Oct2009)

Darjeeling - 288mm
Kalimpong - 280mm

Average rainfall (last 5 yrs) for Darjeeling district for the month of Oct  : 132mm (source

It rained for just about 36hrs and unlike Cyclone AILA, there was no well formed system which was "trackable", nevertheless it dumped close to 300mm of rain (equal to more than double the monthly rainfall) in barely one and half days.
For all of us living here in the affected areas , the 36hrs were as many hrs in hell!
Slide 'A' shows the satellite picture from on 07Oct09 at 3.30am IST
Slide 'B' shows a close up of the same area on 08Oct09 at 5.30am IST

The fact that there were no major landslides this time is perhaps because
a) In Sept09 we had almost 2 weeks of sunshine and as such the moisture content in the soil had reduced considerably.
b) The rainfall lasted for 36hrs only.

Comment by Praful Rao
Annotations on Slide 'A' and 'B' are mine.
Rainfall data source :-
a) Darjeeling ................... Compuset, Darjeeling
b) Kalimpong................... Govt of WB

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Why landslides are an unknown disaster form..

  • Only 15% of the Indian landmass is affected by landslides and many of the affected areas are in remote inaccessible places.
  • Landslides are typically a recurrent form of "small disaster", which gets ignored at the national level in comparison to extreme and extraordinary "high impact" events such as earthquakes.
    Yet the attrition, cumulative loss and impact on development caused by landslides over years often exceeds that caused by the infrequently occurring mega disasters.
  • Statistics for recorded wrongly. Most often losses due to landslides are attributed to events which trigger them eg losses and deaths between 25-27May2009 in Darjeeling are ascribed to Cyclone AILA and not to landslides.
    This leads to an erroneous and deceptively low loss/damage rates being reported for landslides.
  • Govt and media parameters (in India) of judging the severity of landslides are confused and needs to be made exact and precise in order that a landslide can be evaluated correctly.
    As on date govt and media still report the severity of a landslide in terms of the number of houses "fully or partially" damaged or the number of lives lost.
    On 19Aug2009 in Kalimpong landslides, triggered by high intensity rains caused huge damages to roads and infrastructure such as bridges/culverts and caused much loss of farmland. Fortunately no one died.
    Media and govt reports still stuck to reporting the losses in terms of "numbers of houses partially and fully damaged".
    This confused method of assessment leads to an under reporting and incorrect estimation of the scale of the devastation by the hazard.

    Praful Rao