Landslide Challenges And Solutions In India
By: Nripendra Abhishek
Imagine what you will do when you have no roof over your head and no ground under your feet? In the event of a landslide, people’s life becomes a victim of tragedy and they are forced to stumble door to door. In India too, this problem has taken a gigantic form. In the Himalayan region, there is increasing concern about the cracking mountains, cloud burst or landslide. The date changes, the year changes, but the incidents of rock slides and landslides do not change in the monsoon. Due to this, there is a huge loss of life and property. Roads and houses are often destroyed. Excessive rainfall, large-scale deforestation and illegal construction have added to the problem.
Landslides, which have always been a major threat to India, have once again come into the limelight due to the landslides happening in Joshimath. For some time, the speed of sliding of Joshimath has suddenly increased. The entire Joshimath is sinking due to the subsidence of the land. Hundreds of buildings are no longer habitable. In many places, wide cracks have also started emerging on the ground. In some places, water is coming out due to the bursting of the ground.
What is the Joshimath problem?
Joshimath is located in Chamoli district. In this Joshimath itself is the center of religiosity and Badrinath Dham, one of the Char Dhams. Every year there is an influx of devotees and lakhs of devotees throng here. Today this monastery is sinking into the pit of the earth and this is not happening all of a sudden, but it was predicted long back. But this was not taken care off.
According to the 1976 Misra Committee report, Joshimath is not situated on the main rock but on sand and stone deposits. It is situated on an ancient landslide area. The report states that erosion by river streams of Alaknanda and Dhauliganga also come under the factors of landslides. The committee had recommended a ban on heavy construction work, removal of boulders for blasting or road repair and other construction, felling of trees, keeping the construction work on hold. These include construction works, hydroelectric projects and widening of national highways, and these works have increased the slope over the past few decades made it extremely unstable. Apart from this, the streams flowing from Vishnuprayag and the rock slides along with the natural streams are other reasons for landslides in the city. The problem of Joshimath has brought the landslide problem back into the limelight. Joshimath is not the only one which is on the verge of collapse. There are dozens of towns all over the Himalayas, especially in Uttarakhand, which are sitting on time bombs. The case of Uttarakhand is also special because according to geologists, Uttarakhand is the region in the entire Himalayas where earthquakes above scale eight are most likely to occur. For this reason, geologists call this area as the Central Seismic Gap and the itching in the leprosy is that even simple standards have not been followed in the construction of buildings in the hilly areas of Uttarakhand, Dehradun and Haldwani. Similar is the situation in other areas as well.
Where is the most prone to landslides in India?
According to the Geological Survey of India (GSI), in India, 420,000 sq km, or 12.6 per cent of the total land area, is prone to landslides. Snow covered areas are not included in this. Landslide prone areas include the North East Himalayas (Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayan regions), the North West Himalayas (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir), the Western Ghats and the Konkan hills (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra) and Andhra Pradesh includes the Eastern Ghats of the Aruku region. The possibility of rock falls from mountains in these areas is because of the increasing risk from climate change. The GSI has prepared a National Landslide Vulnerability Map on 1:50,000 scale for 85 per cent of the entire 420,000 sq km of rock-prone area in the country and work is underway to complete the rest.
Landslides are triggered by natural causes like earthquakes or heavy rains as well as some man-made constructions and occur every year, especially during the monsoon. Unpredictable weather, climate crisis, heavy and intense rainfall are increasing the incidence of landslides in the country. Climate change is increasing the risk, especially in the Himalayas and the Western Ghats, but one thing to note is that landslides in India occur more in the Himalayan region than in the Western Ghats, Sheffield of America. A study by university researchers found that India was one of the worst affected countries in terms of human-caused fatal landslides in the period 2004-16. The study analyzed 5,031 fatal landslides from around the world. In which 829 incidents of India were included. In India, 28 per cent of the incidents of stone falls occur due to construction work.
This discrepancy was also pointed out in the National Landslide Risk Management Strategy published by the National Institute of Disaster Management in September 2019. Gone The report said that most of the building constructions in the Himalayan region are inspired by the Delhi Master Plan, which is not suitable in the context of hill cities. Landslides often occur when building and building roads in mountainous areas; a large number of rocks have to be removed, which can cause landslides there.
There are other reasons for landslides as well. For example, sometimes landslides are also seen due to heavy rains. Along with this, deforestation is also a major reason for landslides because trees, plants, etc. keep the soil particles dense and due to deforestation, the mountain slopes lose their protective layer, due to which the rain water flows freely on these slopes. Earthquakes are also one of the factors that affect landslides. For example, there was an earthquake in the Himalayas because the earthquake destabilized the mountains, which resulted in landslides every day. It’s in areas of additional north eastern India, shifting agriculture causes landslides. Due to the increasing population, a large number of houses are being built, which creates a large amount of debris that can cause landslides.
There is a danger here not only from the power projects, but also from the anti-nature development thinking. We did not learn a lesson from the unimaginable floods in 2013 over Kedarnath and again erected a heavy cement-concrete structure there. That flood cleared the entire Mandakini valley including Kedarnath from the human encroached river bank area. After that ignoring landslide sensitivity, 825 km in the name of Char Dham All Weather Road. The long road network has cut through the mountains including more than 40 thousand trees and innumerable bushes and the old dormant. Landslides were woken up while on the request of Chandi Prasad Bhatt, the pioneer of Chipco, a dozen expert institutes of the Government of India under the leadership of ISRO had identified dozens of spots vulnerable to landslides on this entire Char Dham Yatra route.
What are the measures to prevent landslides?
First of all the government should strengthen the system of early warning system and monitoring system so that there is no loss of life and property of people. Along with this, it is very necessary to ban construction in risk areas. But where it is necessary to do construction work, there is a need to be careful. There should also be a system that in case of landslides, response teams can be sent for immediate action.
Due to Joshimath, many questions are in front, it is necessary that an independent scientific review should be arranged to study the long-term effects of tunnel-based projects and new conditions should be implemented on the basis of that. Whatever projects are under construction, or ongoing, should be independently investigated and along with social, environmental audit, it should also be seen whether safety standards are followed there or not.
There are many measures in geotechnical engineering to prevent landslides are recommended. Different methods are adopted in different places through different experiments. If we talk about the road section, there are many engineering structures like retaining wall, gabion wall, breast wall, wire mesh, short retting, and slope nailing to prevent landslides on the upper and lower slopes.
Secondly, if we talk about the mountains of our Uttarakhand and Himachal, then we also need to keep in mind that when we make any structure, such as road, building, dam and tunnel, then a comprehensive survey of the geological situation there is done. It is very important to understand the real situation. For example, most of the settlements in our mountains are on top of the debris deposited by large landslides on the mountain slopes in the past. Humans have modified these slopes to make them suitable for farming to increase their livelihood. It is very difficult to understand such places. Because when these shields were made, the environment at that time was different from today’s environment. It rained very little then. The atmospheric temperature was low, due to which this debris stuck on the mountain slopes was stagnant. Today the same debris is sliding down in the form of landslides due to rising temperature in the atmosphere and due to heavy rains.
Today we are seeing that villages are collapsing. There are many examples in our mountains, where villages and towns are facing disaster due to this process. For example Joshimath, Mussoorie, Nainital and Pauri. There are many such cities which are situated on the hill slopes, today they are on the verge of sliding slowly and in this we have to pay great attention that the structures, building or any planning here, should be done according to the land and soil there be made. Construction in at-risk areas should be banned.
The country should identify the sensitive areas and action should be taken in this regard on priority basis. In this, hazard mapping can be done to identify areas prone to landslides. Along with this, more attention needs to be paid to the plantation program to prevent this. Apart from all this, it is the duty of the government that if the landslides are not stopped, then their People should be given the facility of insurance to deal with the loss. So that people can be rehabilitated through it and people can come back to their personal life.
Thus we see that the problem of landslide has become a headache for India. The way Joshimath, which is famous as a cultural heritage, is getting absorbed in the cheek of time, in the same way; don’t know how many areas will get absorbed in the earth. The government will have to take concrete steps while there is time, otherwise the lives of lakhs of people will be disturbed and they will be forced to stumble door to door.
(The author is a researcher & can be reached at email@example.com)