SaveTheHills(STH) is a group of concerned citizens who are raising awareness about landslides in Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya.
Many landslides are the direct or indirect result of human interference and preventable if sufficient care is taken.
As such, unless we begin a comprehensive and sustained program towards landslide management, prevention and mitigation, the consequences of ignoring years of human callousness will, in the future be devastating.
Sep2015 again saw us getting deficient rainfall even though Kurseong (as always) had higher than normal precipitation. What is worrisome is the peaking of rainfall (see graph above) on certain dates, which seems to be the established trend in our rainfall pattern now.
This morning while checking this blog, I came across many posts where the image especially of storm systems had been removed and replaced with
I cannot understand the mindset of prankster or hacker who gets thrills out of destroying data which would help us understand the weather systems in this region better and thereby saves lives. Unfortunately I may not be able to replace the data/image since I normally delete old files after updating the blog.
While I will have to change this practice, may I appeal to whoever disfigured the STH blog to desist from further such action?
1. The meeting was Chaired by Shri Suresh Kr (IAS), Principal Secretary, Disaster Management Dept, Govt of W.B, with Shri Ikhlaque Islam, WBCS (Exe), Jt Secretary and Nodal Officer Disaster Management Dept, Govt of W Bengal also present. Geological Survey of India (GSI) which is the nodal body looking after landslides in India and was co-hosting the event was represented by :-
i. Shri M Raju, Addnl Dir General and HoD Eastern Region, Kolkata
ii. Shri JN Das, Dy Director, GSI
iii. Shri BM Gairola, Dir NHIM Div, New Delhi
iv. Shri M Ghatak, Superintendant Geologist
v. Shri S Ghosh, Superintendant Geologist, GHRM, Central HQ, Kolkata
vi. Shri Jaiswal, Geologist, GHRM, Central HQ, Kolkata
vii. Shri T Ghosal, Geologist, ER Kolkata
2. Significant takeaways from the meeting were :-
a. GSI have confirmed that a geo-technical investigation of the Chibo- Pashyor landslides would be undertaken. This will give us hard scientific data on the state of the landslides in that area and pave the means to technical intervention and funding to stabilize the slopes.
b. Rainfall threshold based forecasting/prediction of landslides which had been tested successfully in the Nilgiris would also be brought into Darjeeling district on a trial basis.
c. Disaster Management Dept, Govt of W B would look into making documentary films in Nepali for landslide awareness.
d. Disaster Management Dept, Govt of W B, would take up the unserviceability of large number of AWS stations with IMD. AWS station in Darjeeling, Gangtok and Siliguri are defective for more than a year now.
3. It was a pity there was no representation of officials from the GTA during the meeting since the Darjeeling/ Sikkim Himalaya are amongst the most landslide prone areas in the country and interacting with the experts at Darjeeling on 18/19Sep2015 would have been a tremendous opportunity for them to be exposed to new technology and techniques to combat a disaster form which is now the most serious environment challenge for us living in these mountains.
Further more since so many high ranking GSI officials were available for 2 days in Darjeeling, we could have asked them for technical investigation of the many major landslides in the Darjeeling hills
"The well marked low pressure area over south Odisha and neighbourhood has concentrated into a Depression at 1130 hours IST of today, the 16th September over south Odisha & neighbourhood and now lay centred at 1430 hours IST of today near Lat.20.3°N and Long. 83.0°E, about 40kms northwest of Titlagarh and about 160kms southeast of
Raipur. It is likely to move west northwestwards during next 24 hours."
Gangtok, Darjeeling and Kalimpong had deficient rainfall in Aug2015 whereas Kurseong and Mangan (N Sikkim) had an excess in rainfall.
Excess rainfall seen in S Bengal was the aftermath of Cyclone Komen which formed in the Bay, end of July2015. No other significant system affecting our region formed in the Bay of Bengal in Aug2015.
There were no major landslides or fatal landslides in Darjeeling and Sikkim.
workshop was organized by Integrated Mountain Initiative
(IMI), a platform of diverse stakeholders working on issues pertinent to the
Indian mountains. Darjeeling
Mountain Initiative (DMI) a chapter of the IMI in Darjeeling district, (of which STH is a member) was the
local host for this workshop. This workshop is a curtain raiser to the
Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS) IV (Arunachal Pradesh) in
from Arunachal Pradesh, Darjeeling, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura,
Uttarakhand, FAO and UNDP as well as civil society representatives of the region gathered in Kalimpong
to deliberate in the workshop.Dr RS Tolia, President IMI, MP Sikkim Mr. P.D. Rai and MLA, Darjeeling Mr. Trilok Dewan
steered the discussions of the meeting. The panel of experts were- Dr Ajit Tyagi, former Director General of India
Meteorology Department Pune, Dr Malay Mukul, Department of Earth Sciences, IIT
Mumbai, Dr Chandan Ghosh, GeoHazard Dept,
National Institute of Disaster Management, New Delhi and Dr Sunil De, Department of Geography, North-Eastern Hill University,
Some of the key outputs of the discussions of
the workshop were:
1.Rainfall: There are huge information
gaps in rainfall maps in the mountains. Moreover the monsoon prediction is more
plain area based and there is no prediction on impact of monsoons in the
mountains. Early warning systems for disaster in the mountains is necessary
2.Earth Quakes: The Himalayan states are highly
vulnerable to high intensity earthquakes and places like Jammu and Kashmir,
Sikkim and Darjeeling are in high-risk zones. More work on Earthquakes need to
be done for other states of Northeast India.
3.Infrastructure: For rural and urban
infrastructure which is rapidly spreading in the mountains, currently there are
sophisticated and simple non-invasive techniques to test buildings for
earthquake resistance. Additionally construction of roads, which is a key
indicator of development in the mountains, needs to be reviewed thoroughly.
Here too there are less stress causing, relatively low cost and simple methods
that can be adopted with more engineering science.
4.Landslides: Detail maps for
landslides are available for some sites and these need to be prepared across
all scales from a landscape level to site level and even to a households level.
These need to be made available to decision makers in different government
sectors so that planning is disaster sensitive.
5.The bottom line is that mountains
are highly vulnerable to disasters and so a paradigm shift in managing
disasters is necessary from the current relief centric to more preparedness and
risk reduction centric pathways.
6.IMI would coordinate and approach with
the Governments of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland to take the panel of experts
to these states and interact with Government Department making them aware about
impending disasters in the mountain states.
7.A similar action was identified as
being absolutely necessary for the Darjeeling to make the various sectors of
the government aware about the vulnerability of Darjeeling to disasters.
8.The meeting agreed that coordination
between the different departments of the government is necessary to make
disaster risk reduction in the mountains more effective. As of now this cross-sectoral
approach does not exist in most mountain states.
9.IMI with its local chapter
Darjeeling Mountain Initiative would be an enabler in coordinating with the GTA
to come up with a Darjeeling Hills specific Disaster Risk Reduction Strategies
as per the need identified by the Hon MLA, Darjeeling. Additionally an
assessment of various state-level Disaster Management Plans was also deemed
necessary to address mountain specific needs for disaster risk reduction.
10.The proceedings of the meeting are
further being collated and will feed into a DRR paper to be finalised in the
Sustainable Mountain Development Summit to be held in Itanagar, Arunachal
Pradesh in October 2015.
Two of the most populous
nations—China and India—are building hundreds of dams in a violently active
By Madhusree Mukerjee | Jul 14, 2015
Earlier this year earthquakes in
Nepal leveled thousands of buildings, killed upward of 8,500 people and injured
hundreds of thousands more. The magnitude 7.8 and 7.3 temblors also cracked or
damaged several hydropower projects, underscoring another imminent danger: dam
bursts. More than 600 large dams have been built or are in some stage of
construction or planning in the geologically active Himalayan Mountains, but
many are probably not designed to withstand the worst earthquakes that could
hit the region, according to a number of seismologists and civil engineers.
Should any of the structures fail, reservoirs as large as lakes could empty
onto downstream towns and cities. A collapse of Tehri Dam in the central
Himalayas, which sits above a fault, would, for instance, release a wall of
water about 200 meters high, slamming through two towns. In total, the flooding
would affect six urban centers with a combined population of two million.
More powerful earthquakes are indeed
likely to strike the Himalayas in coming decades, seismology models show. The
Indian subcontinent is pushing under the Tibetan Plateau at roughly 1.8 meters
per century, but it regularly gets stuck; when the obstruction gives way, a
section of the Tibetan plate lurches a few meters southward and releases the
pent-up energy in an earthquake. The Nepal earthquakes also destabilized the
region to the west, notes Laurent Bollinger, a seismologist at the French
Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission. Destabilization makes a
great earthquake, which is defined as having a magnitude of 8.0 or higher, more
likely to occur sooner rather than later. Other studies indicate that the
earthquakes released only a mere fraction of the stress of this fault line,
which is expected to readjust with quakes of equal or higher magnitude.
“Whether they'll break now, in an 8 or wait another 200 years and then give way
in an 8.7, one cannot say,” says seismologist Vinod K. Gaur of the CSIR Fourth
Paradigm Institute in Bangalore.
Such seismically active regions are
exactly where hundreds of dams 15 meters or higher are either under
construction or being planned, most of them to supply hydropower to India or
China. Any dam being built during this government-funded boom, as well as those
already completed, must be able to withstand the strong ground shaking of an
extreme earthquake, says Martin Wieland of the International Commission on
Large Dams, a group of engineers that makes recommendations for structural
standards. Although every nation has its own regulations, India and China are
secretive about their dam designs when it comes to public scrutiny. Independent
engineers rarely are allowed to evaluate the robustness of the structures, and
when they are, the results can be unsettling. For example, Probe International,
a Canadian environmental research organization, reports that designers for
China's Three Gorges Dam used “the most optimistic interpretation possible” of
seismic shaking. Similarly Tehri Dam never underwent realistic simulations,
asserts Gaur, who served on its oversight committee, along with civil engineer
R. N. Iyengar, formerly of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
Government-affiliated scientists and engineers claim that Tehri Dam can survive
an 8.5 shock, but outside experts are not so sanguine. Any of hundreds of dams
could be in danger of bursting when the next big one hits. If that were to
happen during monsoon season, when the dams are full, the consequences could be
Local corruption can complicate
matters, enabling contractors to get away with using substandard materials or
deviating from mandated parameters. A 2011 study published in Nature
found that an overwhelming majority of deaths from building collapse in
earthquakes occur in corrupt countries. What is more, Transparency International, a nongovernmental
organization that highlights corruption, identifies public construction works
as one of the world's most bribery-prone industries—with dams being of special
concern. Scandals involving dam projects have roiled both India and China, to
the extent that the former Chinese premier, Zhu Rongji, coined the evocative
term “tofu construction” to describe a defective dike.
A handful of scientists who
understand the hidden dangers of the Himalayas have taken the lead in arguing
for realistic, undisguised assessments aimed at protecting the region's
population, though only with limited success. In a case brought by
environmentalists against Tehri Dam, the Supreme Court of India sided with
government scientists to dismiss safety concerns. And in 2012 seismologist
Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado Boulder was deported from the New
Delhi airport, in part, he says, for his unwelcome prediction that the
Himalayas can sustain a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. Bilham contends that the
Indian government has since discouraged foreign collaborations in seismology.
For now, all concerned parties can
do is call attention to the problem. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant,” says
Peter Bosshard of International Rivers in Berkeley, Calif. “Without public
scrutiny, it is much easier to get away with cutting corners.” Given the
stakes, more than sunshine will be necessary: the next great earthquake in the area
may well result in a man-made tsunami.
This article was originally
published with the title "The Impending Dam Disaster in the Himalayan