Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Rainfall of 26/27Jun2023 -106mm in Kalimpong over 24hours

 Convective buildup is seen west of Kalimpong in the IR satellite image at 8.15pm on 26Jun2023. Cloud movement is approx west to east.
It started raining heavily at around 7 pm on 26Jun and continued ON and OFF thru the night. Late at  night or in the early morning, there was lightning and thunder heard for sometime.
It rained thru the night in Kalimpong and its vicinity:
Darjeeling: 52.4mm
The rainfall seems to be totally localized affair - with Kalimpong bearing the brunt of it.
Bagrakot, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar which lie in the Dooars east of Kalimpong received only a  trace of rainfall.


Rainfall persists in Kalimpong at 10.30am on 27Jun2023.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Monday, June 26, 2023

First reported landslide fatalities in 2023 in the Himalayas -25Jun2023 (Mandi, Himachal Pradesh)

 Rainfall data from IMD Shimla

It seems ironic that even as 4 students from IIT (Mandi) are interns with STH in Kalimpong today and as such are learning about use of satellite imagery for early warning, rainfall and landslides, their campus in Mandi has been deluged with mud and overflowing run-off water.

Hope the knowledge and experience gained from this almost one month of internship will prove beneficial to the students.

Praful Rao (retd)
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

The new norm? - AGAIN - sudden, heavy, short duration rainfall in Kalimpong - 20Jun2023

Unlike 17Jun2023, we had a 'RED' warning in place for heavy rain in our region, however it remained dry thru the day with heavy clouds.
There was no thundering or lightning to indicate convective clouds moving in or building up over Kalimpong. Cloud image of the period is shown below:
Heavy rains started at around 7.00pm with intensities of approx 70-80mm/hr. It continued to rain heavily with intensities of over 40mm/hr for another two hours.

With the two rainfall events of 17Jun and 20Jun2023, I was reminded of something which I had read a long time ago, written by late Dr Subhas Ranjan Basu and Dr Sunil Kumar De (NEHU).
I reproduce it below:
'With rapid urbanization and a phenomenal growth of tourism, the Darjiling and Sikkim Himalayas have been experiencing an unprecedented rise in population since independence. Consequently, pressure on land is increasing with the gradual elimination of virgin forests. Unscientific and unplanned usages of land coupled with vulnerable geological structure and high rainfall have led to the establishment of vicious cycle of soil erosion and landslides. During or after every monsoon, landslides create havoc in the Darjiling-Sikkim Himalayas
devastating human lives and properties. As a result the Darjiling-Sikkim Himalayas, one of the most densely populated tourist centers in such monsoon environments, is on the verge of an environmental catastrophe so that just one concentrated shower of 50 mm per hour could initiate landslides endangering innumerable local people and their properties.'

24hrs rainfall of adjoining areas
Cooch Behar 130mm
Jalpai 84mm
Darjeeling 15mm
Gangtok 9.7mm

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Sunday, June 18, 2023

The sudden and heavy downpour of 17Jun2023 in Kalimpong.

Kalimpong experienced its first really heavy, showers in a thunderstorm which lasted for almost 90min from 7.00pm on 17Jun2023.
I checked the IR imagery and lightning at 5.30pm on 17Jun with a group of IIT (Mandi) interns and mentioned to them we had no lightning nor convective clouds in our vicinity. There was absolutely no indication that a severe thunderstorm was building up and the NOWCAST warnings for heavy rain also do not indicate this.

The timeline of satellite images below indicate how CB clouds developed and moved eastwards over Kalimpong from the hills of Nepal.
The rainfall intensity graph from the DAVIS AWS at my home shows that we had heavy rain (ie above 40mm/hr) for an hour at least and that we received almost 60mm of rain during this period.

Videos sent to our WhatsApp group by members show the severity of the downpour in Kalimpong on 17Jun2023 evening.         


Update on 19Jun2023

My thanks to HA Members who shared the videos.

We had 101mm of rain in the last 24hrs (all of it from approx 7pm last evening till 4am on 18Jun2023)

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

Friday, June 16, 2023

A walk down to the solid waste dumpsite at Dalman Gaon (Kalimpong), to understand the complexity of waste management in a Himalayan town - by STH interns.

On 13Jun2023, we walked a distance of approximately 5.5km down a steep inclined road to Dalman Gaon, Bhalukhop village, to see the waste dumping ground used by the Kalimpong Municipality for the disposal of the town's solid waste.

Kalimpong has a population of 49403 (2011 census) and is one of the major towns in the Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya and like all Himalayan towns, Kalimpong has a lot of development activity (much of it unplanned) taking place; the town is surrounded by a large number of home stays which add to the solid waste problem. 
As per the Municipality, it is estimated that 38.4 metric tonnes of waste is generated everyday of which only 10.4 tonnes of the waste is collected and the dumping ground has become a site where every conceivable type of solid waste is discarded.
On approaching the dumping ground, we encountered the rusting carcass of a biogas plant set up by the Municipality in 2015 with the intention of making and selling cooking gas in order to generate funds from the sale thereof. The construction cost of this plant was Rs 80 lakhs. It was estimated that the biogas plant could process 3 metric tonnes of organic waste per day with the final products being biogas and organic manure. The project failed due to a number of reasons and no biogas was commercially marketed from the plant.
The non-functional bio-gas plant raises questions regarding proper utilization of resources, loss of public money and accountability.

What was very apparent from seeing the dumping ground was that segregation of the huge volumes and assortment of waste at the dumpsite was an impossible task. Hence the necessity of segregation at the household level.

The Chota Bhalukhop area where the dumpyard is located, is a very landslide prone zone as per Geological Survey of India (GSI). The extraordinary rains of September 2007 resulted in a number of large landslides in this area and at least two landslide fatalities.

The dump yard being located in this zone results in the road to the site getting blocked frequently during the monsoons which causes the disposal of waste on streets of Kalimpong town - which could cause a serious health hazard in a densely populated urban setting. 

Historically, Kalimpong had two earlier solid waste disposal sites. The first dumpsite located above Alaichikhop village was discontinued after villagers protested in 2009 on the waste from town being dumped in their area.


After the Alaichikhop dumping site was closed a temple was built at the site to deter any one from dumping waste at the site.

Thus the second dump site was at Bhalukhop (see below).This second dumpsite however, had to be closed after considerable expenditure incurred in the construction because of landslides in the area.


 As such the Dalman Gaon dump site is the third dump site of Kalimpong town.

Kalimpong Municipality engages 4 vehicles(2 pickups, 2 tipper trucks) for collection of wastes from different parts of Kalimpong town which operates 3 trips per day to the dumpsite. They have around 20 persons engaged in this job.

After a long walk along the rugged hillside on the western face of Kalimpong, the image of a hill made up of solid wastes, mostly of plastic, revealed the ugly and almost insurmountable problem of solid waste management in a mountain town.

In conclusion, the visit to the solid waste dumping ground in Dalman Gaon, Bhalukhop village revealed the pressing need to reduce the amount of waste being produced in Kalimpong town especially because tourism is adding more and more waste to the mountains and to stringently implement the ban on single use plastics.
There is also an urgent need to launch a concerted campaign to raise awareness on the importance of household segregation of waste in Kalimpong.

Report by Interns with SaveTheHills (STH)

Akshima - IIT (Mandi)
Yogesh K Vijay - IIT (Mandi)
Mohd. Ashiq - IIT (Mandi)
Mohd. Salih - IIT (Mandi)

with guidance from

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district,
Darjeeling- Sikkim Himalaya

Saturday, June 10, 2023

STH activities in early Jun2023.


Commencing 02Jun2023, four IIT (Mandi) students are interning with SaveTheHills for around a month, so our activities have been interwoven with their training schedule.
For their benefit as well as for the students of Cluny Women's College, Kalimpong, we asked renowned academic Prof Sarah Besky of Cornell University (who was Kalimpong for her own research work) to talk about the 'Impact of tourism on Rural Communities'

05Jun2023: World Environment Day (Theme: Solutions to Plastic Pollution)

Along with AIWC (Kalimpong Branch) we organized an awareness program in DISHA Center, Kalimpong:


07Jun2023: Study tour to the NHPC's Teesta Low Dam Project III with 11 students (of IIT - Mandi and Siliguri College)

My thanks to Prof Besky, Cluny Women's College, AIWC (Kalimpong) and NHPC for making the events memorable.

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling Sikkim Himalaya

STH Stormwatch: Cyclone 'Biparjoy' in the Arabian sea and a 'well marked low' in the Bay of Bengal

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalaya.