Friday, April 29, 2011

STH activities : Successes and a failure

  • Establishing an SMS based early warning system in Darjeeling district
    In the Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya most landslides occur during the monsoons and are rain induced. So if we are able to alert communities about periods of prolonged or intense rainfall which may trigger landslides, lives would be saved.
    STH first tried SMS alerts in May2009 during cyclone AILA and right thru the monsoons of 2010, thanks to the initiative of India Meteorological Dept (see here) we did have a small but effective SMS based early warning network in place.
    This was, in addition to STH storm watch, wherein we keep a watch on, report and track  adverse weather developments in the Bay of Bengal on this blog (see example here).
    In 2011, SMS based alerts have been expanded and already hundreds of organizations and individuals all over the district have started getting text alerts from  IMD(Gangtok) on their mobiles; soon we will have thousands receiving these weather alerts for high wind speeds, heavy rain and other adverse weather phenomenon. In so doing we have given priority to NGOs, media personnel and institutions who would further disseminate the warning to others within their organizations.
    STH is also working with a radio station to have these alerts broadcast on FM and I do believe that we will also have the SMS text messages being sent in the local dialect ie Nepali in the near future.

  • Landslide Documentary made available to 50 schools in the district and Sikkim.
    In 2010 DECU of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) along with STH amongst others, had made a 22min documentary on Landslides & Avalanches aimed at an audience in the junior schools.
    We have made copies of the CD and distributed it to 50 schools in Kalimpong/Darjeeling/Kurseong/ Mirik and also in Sikkim.

  • Vetiver grass saplings
    10,000 saplings of  non-aromatic vetiver grass should be reaching us within a week. This grass which is supposed to be an effective means of erosion control will be planted in landslide prone areas  of Kalimpong during the monsoons of 2011on an experimental basis.

    and a Failure
  • We regret to announce that we had to temporarily cancel our community based work due to many reasons; the most important of which being the all pervasive sense of apathy which afflicts us as a society (with the government mouthing nothing more than empty promises) - too bad, we never seem to believe that our luck can also run out.

    Young men from Dhobi Dhara undergoing first aid training with the army. We have halted our community work in the area for the time being.

    Comment by Praful Rao

    I would like to convey our sincere thanks to India Meteorological Dept (Sikkim) and the Indian Army authorities at Kalimpong  for their steadfast support and help.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Excerpt from the Telegraph : 11Apr2011

Governor of W Bengal MK Narayanan rap for Disaster Centre
Siliguri, April 10: Governor M.K. Narayanan yesterday told the North Bengal University authorities that not much had been done to set up the centre of excellence for disaster management that he had suggested last year.
“While addressing the last annual convocation I had urged the university authorities the need for establishing a centre for carrying out research on the disaster management. I thought that since this was a landslide-prone area, the university needs to make it its priority. But I think not much has been done,” he said at the convocation yesterday. Later Ustad Amjad Ali Khan was awarded the DLitt and S. Chandrasekaran, chairman of Indian Institute of Science, the DSc.

Praful Rao

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Revealing the truth : Landslide survey in Kalimpong subdivision (Sinji, Suruk and Dong villages) - 03Apr2011

Till date STH has (due to lack of resources) been restricted to reporting and commenting on the landslide situation in and around Kalimpong town only.
On 03Apr2011, however, we took a day long trip to areas south- southeast of our town ie to the villages of Sinji, Samalbong, Samthar and Suruk. These are remote areas of  Kalimpong subdivision accessible only for another month or so by vehicle - during the monsoons the roads to these villages become veritable traps for all types of vehicular traffic.
The GPS unit told us that we had clocked 59.55km at the end of the survey of landslides.
The coordinates and elevation of the landslide zones are given below :-

a) Waypoint 095 (Samalbong-West) - N27° 01.171’ E088°29.859’. Elevation 923m.
b) Waypoint 101 (Suruk village) -         N26° 58.876’ E088°28.284'.  Elevation 752m.
c) Waypoint 103 (opp Dong village)    N26° 59.357’ E088°28.412'   Elevation 529m

What was plain to see was that in the absence of any worthwhile measures to mitigate or manage the landslides, it was only a matter of time before we would have a whole lot of landslide refugees and the only option would be relocation.
The question  is where?

Comment by Praful Rao
  • I would like to apologize for the quality of some of the above photographs as there was plenty of haze and atmospheric obscurity on the day we carried out the recce.
  • Also whereas the entire area had a number of big and small landslides along  roads and forested areas, we have not documented them here. Our purpose, for the time being to highlight those landslides which are directly impacting human settlements and require urgent attention.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dong, a village living on borrowed time

Yesterday (03Apr2011), several of my young friends from STH and I decided to check out the landslide situation in the eastern areas of Kalimpong town (where STH is based).
So we went for a grueling 8 hr drive into some of the remotest parts of the Kalimpong subdivision ie to the villages of Sinji, Samthar and Suruk of  which I had only heard, despite living here almost 60 years .
I will post the detailed report of the reconnaissance along with entire GPS tracks on this blog within a day or two, but in the meantime placed above is a photo of one segment of a landslide scarred village called Dong ( approx Coord N 26°59.357’, E088°28.412’, Elevation 529m), located opposite Suruk in Kalimpong subdivision.
Praful rao