Monday, December 31, 2012

Image of the Year and a lingering doubt : Will this Heritage Structure survive 2013?

In July this year, we did a story on the landslide which very nearly pulled down the Tindharia Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) workshop which was established in 1915. Later, I spent almost an entire day photographing the area, checking the drainage pattern and talking to locals.
Even though ambitious plans are afoot to save the Heritage site nothing has moved on ground till date and with the passage of each day, time is running out.
As we usher in a New Year, a question haunts my mind :
Will this Heritage site survive the monsoons of 2013?

Praful Rao

Thursday, December 20, 2012

STH Activities : Chasing landslides in Kalimpong

In the second week of Dec2012, I had the pleasure of interacting with Mr Debashish Bhattacharya, senior geologist from Geological Survey of India, which is the nodal body looking after landslides in the country. The GSI scientist was in Kalimpong for 10days with a mandate to update the GSI landslide inventory of this area.
I am glad to say that a group of volunteers and I could accompany the geologist to all the major landslide zones in the vicinity of Kalimpong town and also provide him assistance in visiting landslide sites in Nimbong, Suruk, Samthar, Algarah and Payun (ie places in Kalimpong sub-division but at a considerable distance from town).

All this points to the vital necessity of involvement of local people in landslide surveys by any outstation scientific body if the correct picture of the landslide situation is to emerge; because only through local participation can the GSI (or any other body) understand the past history of the area and the impact of landslides on human beings, which after all should be the final endeavor of any scientific inquiry.

Placed above are images of some ot the areas we visited along with captions. Many of the sites have links on this blog where you can read more details :-
SLIDE 1 - read further here
SLIDE 2 - read further here
SLIDE 7,8,9 - read further here

My thanks to Debashish for his time and for accompanying us on those long, steep treks as we chased landslides in Kalimpong.

Praful Rao

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Upcoming events : NATIONAL SUMMIT ON DISASTER MANAGEMENT “Forging Partnerships for Readiness and Relief” 18 – 19 December 2012, New Delhi

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), in partnership with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), is organizing “National Summit on Disaster Management – “Forging Partnerships for Readiness and Relief” scheduled for 18 – 19 December 2012 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the  Institutional Partner for the Summit.

For details please visit this link.

Praful Rao

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Light at the end of the tunnel? : Tindharia/ Pagla Jhora landslides to be repaired soon.

STH has been associated with the Tindharia and Pagla Jhora landslides from Nov2011 when we did a big, well-attended workshop at Tindharia.
Thereafter, in July this year, after further landslides directly threatened the DHR workshop at Tindharia, we spent an entire day in the area checking the drainage and preparing a report for an expert and a friend (see here).
I am glad to say that the PWD will finally be taking up repairs of both the above landslide areas in the near future. You can read the Telegraph article here and this move I am sure, comes directly as an aftermath of the visit to Kolkata by the high powered NDMA team early this week (read here)

My only fear is, that is it too little - too late?

Because the way our bureaucracy groans and grinds along, by the time the work ACTUALLY starts, the monsoons of 2013 will be here and during the rainy season, we all know that major preventive work cannot really be done; all we can do then is fire fighting and emergency crisis management.
The monsoons were mild this year (which poses other problems as regards severe water shortage problems in the Mar-May2013) so we did not have major landslides in our area.

In an age where we should increasingly be expecting the unexpected, aren't we pushing our luck too far to for hope this trend to continue?

Praful Rao

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why we ought to be bothered ...

Economies of Bangladesh, Philippines, Myanmar, India, Viet Nam at highest risk (excerpt from Maplecroft Natural Hazards  Risk Atlas)

Some of Asia’s most important growth economies have the highest financial risk from the threat of natural hazards, due to the high exposure of their cities and trading hubs to events such as flooding, earthquakes and tropical cyclones, according to the 2nd Natural Hazards Risk Atlas released by Maplecroft.
Bangladesh, the Philippines, Myanmar, India and Viet Nam are among the ten countries with the greatest proportion of their economic output exposed to natural hazards. In addition, they also demonstrate poor capability to recover from a significant event exposing investments in those countries to risk of supply chain and market disruptions. This could lead to sizable business interruption costs, in addition to material damage to essential infrastructure. Maplecroft’s research also showed that it could exacerbate other risks like societal unrest, food security, corruption and rule of law even leading to increased political risk.
“High exposure to natural hazards in these countries are compounded by a lack of resilience to combat the effects of a disaster should one emerge,” explains Maplecroft’s Head of Maps and Indices Helen Hodge. “Given the exposure of key financial and manufacturing centres, the occurrence of a major event would be very likely to have significant impacts on the total economic output of these countries, as well as foreign business.”

Praful Rao

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Upcoming events : Workshop on Climate Change in Darjeeling (17-18Dec2012)


The Federation of Societies for Environmental Protection (FOSEP), Darjeeling in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, New Delhi are organizing a  

"Workshop on Climate Change and Mountain Areas: Awareness, Adaptation and Sustainability"

AIM : This Workshop aims at providing a forum for exchange of information, knowledge, experiences and data related to climate change, good practices and policy initiatives across the Himalayan region. The objectives are to assess the level of awareness, adaptation and other experiences among various segments of the society and livelihood related activities. It will be held in a workshop format where three main presentation of 20 minutes each will be made in each session by the three Panelists and other will share their experiences and experiments as discussants.

Date : 17 & 18Dec2012
Venue : May Fair Hotel Resort, Darjeeling

I am glad to state the STH will be participating in the workshop.

Praful Rao