Thursday, August 22, 2019

Rainfall data of July2019 for the Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya

The torrential downpours between the 06July till 17Jul2019 caused a spate of damage all over the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts and resulted in 5 deaths and many landslides. Links are placed below:
a. Either it's too little or too much
b. Extreme event in Darjeeling
c. Landslide report
A graphical representation of the rainfall over Kalimpong in July2019 (from our Davis AWS) is placed below:
A copy of the RED warning issued by IMD during the period is placed below and as far as I can remember, the first 2 weeks of July 2019 saw the largest consecutive number of RED warnings issued for heavy rain for SHWB (Sub-Himalayan W Bengal) and Sikkim:
The rainfall data (Jun-July2019) for Sikkim from IMD Sikkim is below:
Rainfall data of Gangtok, Damthang, Dentam and rainfall maps are from IMD.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya

Friday, August 16, 2019

5 year rainfall data of the Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya from CRIS (IMD)

Rainfall day-wise over the monsoon months, for the last 10yrs have been published on this blog for some main towns of the region.
The source for the above chart is here

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling- Sikkim Himalaya

Saturday, August 10, 2019

An Event of Note: #Plastic Freedom Challenge pledge in Darjeeling (08Aug2019)

Over 100 students from schools and colleges, Darjeeling Municipality and members of Zero Waste Himalaya took the #Plastic Freedom Challenge pledge led by the Executive Officer, Darjeeling Municipality Shri Samiran Mandal at the Town Hall, Darjeeling on 8 August 2019. The pledge is to take a break from using plastic items for a week August 8 - August 15 so as to step towards a more sustainable lifestyle and reducing the load on the landfill. A plastic free Independence Day celebrations was also advocated in the event.
Plastic pollution has become one of the gravest concerns the world over and also for our mountains, the situation is no different. The plastic problem is directly related to how we are and packaging our products, but also largely to the way we are living our lives. We are Producing, Consuming and Throwing plastics like never before and all of the plastics which we have thrown will remain on the planet for a long time to come. Our oceans are full of plastics, so are our rivers and streams and forests. There is plastics in our bottled water, plastics in tap water, in the salt that we eat, and also in our poop. Therefore it goes without saying that there is a need to make concerted efforts to address the issue of plastic pollution through individual actions to bring changes to our lifestyles, as well as collective actions and policies to make companies more responsible. The #PlasticFreedomChallenge (#PFC) is a yearly campaign that takes place across the 12 mountain states and calls on individuals to that the challenge to go without plastic for a week.
Independence Day is a great opportunity to Beat Plastic Pollution and to break free from plastics, especially single use plastics. #PFC runs for a week from 8 August (Zero Waste Himalaya Day) to 15 August (Independence Day) where we challenge ourselves and others to go one week without plastics. #PFC is a collective response to bring positive changes to the unhealthy and unsustainable lives that we are leading and is a stepping stone to journey towards more sustainable lifestyles, while influencing others to do the same. #PFC is also to mark our collective stand against companies that pollute by refusing to use their products (that are also unhealthy and toxic) for a week, and to continue it beyond.

The event had presentations on the rationale for the Plastic Freedom Challenge and need to close the tap on plastic as the only solution to the plastic pollution and the need to go beyond the narrative of dustbins, brooms, rolling down the hill and burning waste. Ajay Chettri performed his song Taarjeeiling during the event and the song ended with Darjeeling ko phor kasley sangalera laney ho(who will manage the waste of Darjeeling) which gave the queue to the pledge.
The Town Hall had exhibition and sale of sustainable products like cloth sanitary pads and menstrual cups – DLR Prerna; locally produced reusable bags from Hayden Hall and Earth and Home; bamboo toothbrushes, straws, wooden pencils and games from Tieede, bio-degradable Rakhi from Scavengers. Zero Waste Himalaya had a poster series 12 steps to zero waste that highlights simple doable steps that enables individuals to reduce their waste and move to a more sustainable lifestyle. OKC Monastery had a special poster exhibition that highlighted their initiative of a plastic free Sakha Dawa where no plastic wrapped offering and food was used in the entire rituals and festivities. The exhibition inspired and offered options to the participants of the event.

 The participants at the Zero Waste Himalaya Day were students and teachers of St. Joseph’s College, Darjeeling Government College, Ghoom Jorebunglow Degree College, Municipal Boys HS, St. Teresa’s HS, Notre Dame Academy, Assembly of Gods Church School, Nepali Girl’s HS, St. Joseph’s, St. Robert’s, Municipal Girls HS.

Zero Waste Himalaya is a pan Himalayan collective of individuals, Government Organisations, CSOs, FBOs that promote principles of zero waste as the sustainable waste management paradigm. The Darjeeling event was represented these ZWH members Anugyalaya, DLR Prerna, Scavengers, Tieede, WWF-India.
Contact details of ZERO WASTE HIMALAYA
Mr Roshan Rai (DLR Prerna) -
Ms Priya Shrestha (WWF-India) -
Mr RP Gurung (ECOSS)
Mt Arpan Rai (Anugyalaya,Darj) -

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling Sikkim Himalaya

Friday, August 9, 2019

The terrifying new normal in rainfall: It's either too little or too much

As far as rainfall goes, June 2019 for us in the Darjeeling Himalayas ended with a net deficiency of -56%:
Exact figures in for the region from IMD are:
The average rainfall figures for the region being:

So while the rural community in Kalimpong district felt very anxious at the continued deficiency of rain (Apr and May2019 were also bone dry months), urban dwellers were also facing a severe water shortage and extraordinary heat in the pre-monsoon season.
Then came July and in 10 days (06-15Jul2019) we received 98% of our monthly rain in Kalimpong and Darjeeling with Kurseong, Siliguri going well over the monthly rainfall during the same period:
In Aug2019 thus far, in just 5 days Kalimpong has received 51.1% of the monthly rain for August.
This trend is being seen in the entire country be it Vadodra or Mumbai and the consequences of these events have been covered in this blog and also by the media
I wonder whether we realize what we are facing and are prepared to face the new normal in precipitation which is always either too little rain or too much.

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Monday, August 5, 2019

A mention from an Icon in his memoirs : Prof Leszek Starkel On SaveTheHills

In the world of Geo-morphology, Prof Leszek Starkel of the Polish Academy of Sciences stands tall.
A virtual giant of a man and a pioneer in the studies of landslides in the Darjeeling Himalaya, he first came to Darjeeling after the Oct 1968 disaster and continued to turn up almost every year thereafter to trudge these mountains and write volumes.
I came across him quite by accident. A friend had loaned me Prof Starkel's book on landslides some time in early 2008 and while flipping thru the pages I found his email address on the last page of the book. I shot off an email to him and promptly forgot about it, never expecting a reply from someone as famous or as busy.
Almost 6 months later I received a reply from him saying he would be in this area in the autumn of 2008 and would be happy to meet me. What followed was almost history for STH - we quickly organized the first Seminar on Landslide Hazards at Darjeeling with Prof Starkel as our keynote speaker.
I found his 'Memoirs' recently while researching the 1968 disaster and have published the excerpts below:
The images of the 21Nov2008 Seminar are here

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Saturday, August 3, 2019

A document from the past: my (restored) photo of the Oct1968 disaster in the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

The Story behind the above Photo:
I still have vivid and frightening memories of the Oct 1968 Disaster which engulfed the entire Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalayas more than 50yrs ago.
I was 17 then, a student of St Joseph's College, Darjeeling who had come home to Kalimpong during the Puja vacations in the first week of October.
Then all of a sudden it started raining...
Strange that it was raining so heavily when we normally expected fine weather with an occasional shower. Stranger still, that the torrential downpours continued thru the day and night and yet another day and another night ... and for 4 days.
I don't recollect much lightning or thunder so I presume now it wasn't any cyclone or depression which had moved up from the Bay (of Bengal). I just remember the steady and heavy drumming of incessant rain. I also don't recall any panic or concern either among the local people or in government circles.
Meanwhile it just rained and rained and rained.
On the fourth night, I distinctly remember going to bed and hearing muffled explosions at night - landslides were taking place somewhere and reasonably close by...
On the fifth day morning, it stopped raining and suddenly we saw patches of blue skies.. and in the silence with no heavy rain, all I heard was sounds of water - water gushing out of crevices, trickling down some hidden corner, streets which had turned into rivers, water pounding down jhoras (natural drains), and the roar of the Teesta river way below my home in Tirpai, Kalimpong.
And there was also death.
It was everywhere - I saw the carcass of cows which had been buried in a landslide below our home, and near Nandu Ram's Wool Godown (now the CST - Central School for TIbetans) barely 5 mins walk from my home, some 15 people died in a huge landslide (refer the 'explosions'). Further down, in Dungra bustee, a jhora had burst its banks and swept away an entire clan of 7 of our relatives.
My little hamlet, Tirpai was marooned, cut off from the town of Kalimpong which was barely a kilometer away, and Kalimpong itself was marooned from Siliguri with the highway being decimated by landslides.
So we heard new sounds - sounds of helicopters as they dropped supplies and food, up at the army cantonment in Durpin.
I heard that the iconic Anderson bridge at Teesta bazar had been been swept away and that was when I and 2 friends walked down 16kms to photograph the destruction and havoc caused in the mother of all disasters in the Darjeeling- Sikkim Himalaya.
Realizing that most readers of this blog would not have even been born when the Oct 1968 disaster occurred and therefore would not understand the significance of the photo on top, I am attaching an image of the majestic Anderson Bridge which was washed away during the event. It was constructed in 1933 and named after John Anderson, Governor of Bengal.

Praful Rao,
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya