Monday, November 28, 2022

Pathing landslide in Yangyang subdivision, South Sikkim revisited: 27Nov2022

Our visit to and report on the 'Very Active Landslide', at Yangyang in South Sikkim, generated much interest from the public at large and more specifically from the people, media and government of Sikkim. As such the 7 min documentary which STH together with Junkeri Studios (Kalimpong) had almost completed required a total overhaul, since much had changed in Pathing.

The landslide, however continued to wreak havoc and we needed to update our videos as well as photos; as such we made another 3 hour trip to Pathing landslides on 27Nov2022. This photo report is from our visit there on the said date:

Probable cause of the landslide and prognosis
As per locals the landslide has been more active AFTER the monsoons rather than when it was raining. An expert whom I spoke to suggested this maybe due to 

  • the weak rock formations such as phyllites and schists in the mountain
  • the steep (almost 60 -70 deg) incline of the slope failure

What the experts and the villagers agreed on was that it was not possible to control or mitigate this slide as such the only choice left for Pathing villagers would be to relocate to a safer place and I am glad to say that the govt is already thinking on those lines.
A glimmer of hope may also come from what the locals told me - that the frequency of rockfall was less for the last few days and that it had not been active for the 3 consecutive nights. So it could also mean that the unstable mass was collapsing slowly which may lead to this slide becoming stable over a period of time.

Location details of slide
Latitude 27° 17' 44.196" N    Longitude 88° 23' 32.874" E
Elevation 1575.60 m

STH together with Junkeri Studios, Kalimpong will be coming up with a 10 min updated documentary which will include extensive drone foot-ages of the landslide, damage to the village and also interviews with affected people in the next week

As always, our thanks to all those who helped in making our second visit to Pathing possible and especially to the people of the village.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling -Sikkim Himalaya

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Commemorating Prof Leszek Starkel's interactions with STH in Darjeeling (21Nov2008) and Kalimpong (25Nov2009)

Prof Leszek Starkel (1931-2021) was a legend.
He was an eminent geomorphologist, a leading figure in Polish geomorphology over many decades and also a person of wide international reputation.
I came across him almost accidentally. Some one had given me a book by him on 'Rain,Landslides and Floods in the Darjeeling Himalaya' sometime in early 2008 and in it was his email address. So I shot off an email to him saying SaveTheHills was very interested in his work and would like to meet him if possible and promptly forgot about it, never expecting a reply.
Many months later I got a reply from the great man that he was arriving in Darjeeling in Nov2008 and I could actually meet him. I jumped at the offer and requested that he be our keynote speaker in a seminar on 'Landslide Hazards' we would organize in Darjeeling on his arrival.
He agreed and we organized what must be the first seminar on 'Landslide Hazards' in Darjeeling on 21Nov2008. A year later we organized another talk by him in Kalimpong on 25Nov2009 which was also our last since his visits to India stopped due to illness.
Later I found that he had been coming to India very regularly after the Oct 1968 disaster to study among other things the Ambootia landslides.
Prof Starkel passed away last year on 06Nov.
The images below are testimony to our brief but wonderful interaction with Prof Leszek Starkel.

STH finds a place in Prof Leszek Starkel's memoirs:

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya

Saturday, November 19, 2022

A very active landslide at YangYang (South Sikkim, India); 18Nov2022

YangYang also called Yangang is a small town in South Sikkim. In it, is an even smaller village - Pathing which is mainly composed of people from the Gurung community. The livelihood of most in Pathing is agriculture and more recently, tourism. Pathing also lies enroute between the town of Ravangla and Yangang.
I came to know about a major, very active landslide in Yangang fairly recently and visited the place on 18Nov 2022 with a drone crew from Junkeri Studios.
We spent approx 2-3 hours photographing the landslide there, interacted with many of the affected people, taking drone foot-ages as well as interviewing many locals.
The landslide is apparently 30years old or more and no one seems to know how it was triggered.
However this year, despite the fact that rainfall was less, the landslide has become far more active and as we witnessed the rockfall has been continuous even after the monsoons.
It has impacted road communication between Ravangla and Yangang which is now closed. The farming community has lost a lot of land because of the shooting boulders, children's schooling has been adversely affected and the budding tourism industry in the area has now suffered a total set back.
I have placed a photo-essay on the landslide below but will be coming up with a short documentary on our visit to the landslide and findings - the video will be placed in our Youtube Channel

Lat/Long: 27° 17' 49.47" N, 88° 23' 25.5" E
Elevation: 1574m

My thanks to the people of Pathing village and Yangang for being such wonderful hosts and to all those who helped.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya
Junkeri Studios


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Introduction to Landslide Hazards: A documentary by SaveTheHills with the help of Project Landslip

 As I keep saying, landslides and momos are a part of every day life in the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya and the sooner we learn to live with this hazard the better.
As such, generating awareness about landslides is important and has always been one of the main roles of STH.

Towards this end, we have just completed an introductory documentary on landslide hazards - it is in Nepali (with English subtitles). The link is here
We will have two more documentaries as a follow up.
STH thanks Project Landslip for all the technical advice and help in making this video possible.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Rainfall data of Oct 2022 of some town in the Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya


As can be seen from the above table, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, South and West Sikkim had deficient rainfall while East and North Sikkim had excess rain. The plains of north Bengal including Siliguri had more or less normal rainfall.
The rainfall, however was confined to the first half of the month when the monsoons were quite active in the entire country even as the SW monsoons 2022 started withdrawing from the subcontinent. After 15Oct2022 there was no rain.

A series of low pressure areas formed in the Bay, some as remnants of tropical storms from the Pacific.
Remnants of tropical storm 'SONCA' formed a low pressure in the Bay which eventually intensified into Cyclone 'SITRANG' in the Bay of Bengal

SITRANG was the first cyclone to hit Bangladesh after 2017.

Media on Cyclone 'SITRANG' (Indian Express, 25Oct2022):

 Power and telephone links have been largely cut and coastal areas plunged into darkness, officials said.

A tropical storm that lashed Bangladesh left at least 35 people dead and about 8 million without power across the delta nation, officials and news reports said on Tuesday.

The government said about 10,000 homes were damaged and more than 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres) of crops were destroyed. Thousands of fishing projects were also washed away.

 The United News of Bangladesh news agency said about 20,000 people were marooned because of flooding triggered by tidal surges in the southern coastal district of Bhola.

Tropical Storm Sitrang brewed in the Bay of Bengal before turning north toward Bangladesh’s vast coast, prompting authorities to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people to cyclone shelters Monday. Heavy rains battered the country throughout the day, flooding many areas in the coastal regions across southern and southwestern Bangladesh.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling Sikkim Himalaya

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Once upon a time in 2008 - the story of a ropeway and a dam

Dams often earn the ire of environmentalists and locals alike and with good reason: I am very sure that NH10 (connecting Siliguri and Gangtok) has become more unsafe due to dam operations on the Teesta river. Yet dams also benefit a lot of people.
(see short write up by Dr Vimal Khawas of Sikim University - Vimal is a person who should know since he belongs to Suruk which was a remote inaccessible village before NHPC's Teesta Low Dam Project (TLDPIII) was commissioned in 2013).
I visited TLDP III many times when it was being constructed and have placed below photos of how village people from the Suruk, Samthar and Yangmakum region (of Kalimpong district) used to commute to and from their village to the urban centers across the river Teesta in 2008, when the dam construction was in progress.

Dr Vimal Khawas' take:

Stories and arguments of ecological fallouts and socio-economic fractures abound when we talk about hydro-dams across the Himalayas including in Darjeeling and Sikkim.

However, there are many economic and infrastructural benefits that the villages surrounding these projects have witnessed due to these projects.

The remote villages of Samthar and Yangmakum GP (over ten villages), that were over the years neglected by the government, have directly benefitted from the above projects. One of the major outcomes of these projects, is the two motorable bridges at 27th mile and Kalijhora areas that connect the remote villages with the mainstream. Villagers used to walk/trek several hrs and take manually operated ropeway to cross river Teesta before TDLP III was constructed. These projects have also facilitated to smoothen the village roads and walking lanes/footpaths. Smaller bridges and culverts have been constructed across villages to ease the difficult lives of the villagers. Besides, NHPC has also aided school children thru scholarships, established primary schools and health centers in selected locations. People in the villages like Suruk, Samthar, Panbu, Yang, Makum etc have been financially empowered after the bridges connected the villages to the market.

This is not to say that there are no negative fallouts of these projects, particularly on the riparian habitations along NH10. The negative impacts have been discussed at length by the researchers and activists elsewhere.

Photo Essay:
Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya