Sunday, February 28, 2010

Seminar on Geo-Hazards at North Bengal University (06-07Mar2010)

STH has been invited to attend the above seminar and I will be talking on "Landslide Hazards in Kalimpong and the need for a long term, comprehensive strategy to combat landslides in the Darjeeling hills"

Praful Rao

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Working with Communities : Jungpana T.E (Kurseong) - 21Feb2010

Jungpana Tea Estate (T.E) is located 5 kilometers east of NH55 and is 12km from Kurseong town. Everything in the T.E has to be brought in from Kurseong and to do that they have to cross Changey khola (river)  which is the site of a huge landslide.
The situation gets worse during the monsoons, so two persons stand on the either side of the khola to watch if it is safe to cross since even if there is a little rainfall the stones start rolling down. This procedure becomes critical when carrying sick people to the hospital.
Jungpana T.E is surrounded by landslides from three sides; on the east are the Malu Taar slides, with Changey khola in the west and the Majuwa slides in the north. There are many small landslides all over the village and what is really alarming is that cracks have developed all over the village. Jaydeep Tamang a local resident observed "I don’t think my house will withstand this monsoons and we cannot do any thing unless the Tea Estate gives us the permission" he further added “nothing is going to happen unless the house is completely destroyed”
Houses damaged by the Cyclone AILA are still not repaired and many of the compensations claimed have not been received by the villagers.
The people who were present today were eager to learn about the risk management and they assured STH that they will impart the knowledge to other people who were not present in the program.
I urged the villagers to prepare a basic village level disaster management plan in order to face the monsoons in a better and look into the drainage system in the village to the extent possible

-report filed by
Bhushan Chhetri
STH Member,


Remarks by Praful Rao
It is wonderful to have a Bhushan, a young volunteer achieve all this with no help (except guidance from us) from any one. Kudos to him!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Working with Communities : Chibo/Pashyor village & Sakyong (08 &15Feb2010)

Chibo / Pashyor Village, Kalimpong (08Feb2010)
Sakyong (Lower Menchu, Kalimpong)
(15 Feb2010)

Praful Rao

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A new blog and updates..

1. The STH blog is now over 2 years old and has now become HUGE and maybe a little intimidating. In order to separate STH activities and other miscellaneous information from landslides, a new blog meant only to be a database for landslides in this region has been opened here . So whereas much of the information about STH will remain in this blog, the facts and figures about landslides will be available at the new blog.
2. STH has now acquired 2 automatic rainfall gauges (ARGs) and a Garmin GPS hand held device.The ARGs will now be positioned at Kalimpong and Kurseong and together with the one already available at Darjeeling, we will be able to maintain a daily and accurate record of rainfall in the 3 towns of the district. Also our the landslide database will now contain GPS data.

Praful Rao

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Community awareness workshop (06Feb2010) : "Can we be better prepared to deal with Landslides in the monsoons this year?"

The monsoons of 2009 began with Cyclone AILA smashing through parts of Darjeeling district and continued with unexpected & sudden peaks of high intensity rainfall which caused landslides and destruction for the rest of the monsoon season (all available in blog). 
Now with the monsoons of 2010 just about 3 months away, it is time to ponder whether we learnt anything from the devastation last year?
With this in mind STH along with Centre for Mountain Dynamics (CMD - an NGO working with farmers in Kalimpong subdivision) organized a joint workshop to discuss how we could be better prepared to deal with the monsoons this year. Some 53 community representatives from all over Kalimpong sub-division attended the meeting and over a 2 hour session, the rudiments of Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) were discussed. Members of the rural communities actively participated and related their experiences during the proceedings which was moderated by Mr Yusuf Simick of CMD. Ms Kakoli Chowdhury (and her daughter) from Darjeeling were also present in the meeting and we hope to organize a similar meeting there with her.

The meeting was summarized by the octogenarian Mr PR Pradhan who noted that this was the first meeting that he had attended which was based solely on better ways of living with a disaster form (landslides) which was increasing in intensity and frequency each year.

Praful Rao

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lessons we never learn.... 2


It is with uncanny accuracy that Dr Sangita Lama's map (top) in the book "Rains, Landslides and Floods in the Darjeeling Himalayas" (edited  by Profs Leszek Starkel and Subhasranjan Basu) depicts landslide prone areas around Darjeeling town.
The sketch (below) is what I prepared  in 2007 and in 2009 (after Cyclone Aila) with inputs from friends in Darjeeling - almost a decade after the book was published.... as you can see the landslides occurred almost entirely in the vulnerable zones indicated in the map....
had we been more more alert and responsive perhaps we could have prevented some of the landslides....
Alas! we never seem to learn and seem destined to keep on repeating our past mistakes...

Praful Rao

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lessons we never learn...1

Kazi Gaon in Tungsung was severely affected by landslides during Cyclone Aila last year…eight people died and one body was never found. Three photos (1/2/3) of that period are placed below and substantiates why I term these as man made disasters. It is well documented that Tungsung is a very vulnerable area but as can be seen in photos 4/5, the sides of the road have been lined with 6-7 storeyed buildings.
Though the ridge tops and the ridge of the Jalapahar-Katapahar area are comparatively stable the lower reaches are today densely populated and have become increasingly landslide prone.
This problem is undoubtedly exacerbated by people mindlessly throwing all the garbage into the newly built drains clogging them (photo6)

My thanks to Ms Kakoli Chowdhury of Darjeeling for the article and photographs

Praful Rao