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Non-anthropogenic reasons behind 45 landslides in HP safety of local and tourists under scanner

The premier institutions, including the Geological Survey of India (GSI), and IIT Mandi is finding scientific solutions to the problem of large scale landslides.

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Shimla: As many as 45 landslides triggered during recent rainfall was attributed to non-anthropogenic reason by the various report prepared by Geological Survey of India(GSI) and other institutions blaming state and National Highway Authority to ignore ecological and geological vulnerability posing a major threat to the hospitality industry, the safety of locals and tourists.

Landslide Risk Management Report, 2015 presented by Dr AK Mahajan, Professor(Environmental Science) and a recent study by the GSI about Road Cave-in in KaliDhanak area at Paonta Sahib on Shillai Road find major lapses in the design and non-scientific executions of the project by the State and NHAI officials.

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The premier institutions, including the Geological Survey of India (GSI), and IIT Mandi is finding scientific solutions to the problem of large scale landslides.

Three different reports by GSI prepared on the advice of state administration mapped the risk assessment of mountain-related hazards and put shear blame on the insensitivity of state executive agencies to ignore the non-anthropogenic and expected anthropogenic eventuality and risk factor.

High-level reports had alarmed NHAI and the State Government regarding in light of a spate of landslides in the state however both did not pay any heed to expert suggestions while undertaking large-scale development projects, especially highways excavated on a large scale, in the state.

A team of experts constituted by the highways ministry recommended that no proposed widening of highway stretches in the state should be allowed till slope studies and stability analysis, of both the hill and valley side of the national highway, are undertaken.

After analysing landslides in the state a report prepared by the team of experts warned that road developers also need to determine the effect of anthropogenic (human) activities on the roads.

This report has already been handed over to union Secretary Giridhar Armane recently stressed up for an audit of all NHAI projects being under execution in the hilly terrain keeping it benefited to the risk of landslide hazard and safety of people in perspective.

The report also suggested a slew of measures recommended to be drawn as remedial measures within the ambit of ongoing contracts.

The expert team emphasised that DPRs (Detailed Project Report) should include slope protection measures and methodology of construction keeping with the hill ecology. DPRs should invariably provide detailed construction methodology before and after hill cutting.

SOPs laying down steps to be taken after the occurrence of landslide may be prepared and made part of EPC document so that immediate measures at the site could be taken by the agency working at the site minimising the losses.”

An Engineering Procurement and Construction document(EPC) mode should be adopted to address the vulnerability as a cent per cent funding under EPC is expected to be born by the Government agencies for such projects during its implementation to make them foolproof.

The report cautioned the NHAI to identify vulnerable locations on every NH in the state on base of landslide hazards vulnerability studies conducted by GSI and Defence Geoinformatics Research Establishment (DGRE) moreover regional officers of ministry should carry out quarterly inspections of all such sites.

This report was prepared by an inspection team which was joined by engineers from the road ministry, HP Public Works Department and an expert from DGRE after they visited two spots in the state where massive landslides had occurred recently.

The team visited Hindustan Tibet National Highway -5, connects Shimla with Shipki pass to India-China border( as landslide caused deaths of 30 people on 11 August 2021 and on NH-707 in Sirmaur district connecting Paonta Sahib to Hathkoti (100-metre stretch two lanes of NH cave in on July 30).

This team recommended immediate, medium- and long-term measures to address the situation and now the ministry has gone through this report following the suggested measures.

The measures recommended include installation of cautionary signs boards nearby potential landslide locations and round-the-clock vigil to early warn the commuters about imminent shooting stones, landslides and rolling down of boulders in the active locations.

Without blaming the construction activities for these landslides the team advised creating a database of vulnerable spots or locations terming both sites vulnerable to landslide hazards.

The graded atlas based on the potential human and asset loss or damage vis a vis traffic intensity, importance of connectivity (could) be prepared and the priority-based remedial plan to rectify all locations may be drawn up,” the report recommended.

The team observed that landslides could have been avoided to not indulge in the construction of transmission tower as the crown of the sliding failure is 30away from an electrical tower constructed with an inclination of 60 degrees along with a structure at an inclination of 75 degrees,” the report maintains.

According to the report, such landslides have highlighted the need for the preparation of a database based on interdisciplinary studies to arrive at landslide susceptible locations on the national highway network so that potential locations may be identified and monitored.

The State Government also got a major snub by the National Green Tribunal recently who have constructed multistory parking at the heart of Capital town in the core area at State Secretariat defying study reports by the top bodies like GSI.

Airports, hydropower projects, four lanes, national highways, seven to eleven-story or multi-floor skyscrapers, and Government buildings are relentlessly conceived by politicians to undermine environmental laws.

During the monsoon, as many as 45 major and minor landslides have occurred in Himachal Pradesh during this monsoon.

According to GSI, the state witnessed the highest number of landslides in the country. A similar pattern of natural calamities has been observed in Uttarakhand in recent times.

Is Himachal Pradesh really safe to travel to? Live pictures and viral videos of massive landslides amid reports of incessant deaths and the collapse of mountains have left tourists and state officials worried.

Around 435 deaths this year – the highest in the state during the monsoon in the last five years – have occurred. Several national highways have been blocked due to frequent landslides, bridges have been broken by falling rocks and tourist vehicles have been damaged by debris.

Unprofessional approach by enforcement and executing agencies quite glaring The situation is worrisome in the state, as the economy is largely dependent on tourism and horticulture are being impacted by the indecisive leadership and snailed paced bureaucracy who keep on sitting on recommendation and mitigation measures suggested by the various institutions for decades.

The issue of landslides and loss of lives despite being hyped by the media seemed to have failed to draw the attention of the authorities to address or create measures to readily access these in time.

During a recent visit to the state, President of India Ram Nath Kovind had also drawn the attention of the state government to the frequent landslides in some districts.

The Prime Minister of India also directed the state government to ensure relief and mitigation measures. State Chief Secretary Ram Subhag Singh defending the state that he is taking this issue forward with the help of scientific organizations.

There is a need not only to assess the vulnerabilities and take steps to prevent them but also to develop early warning systems to prevent them and reduce their impact on human life.” he maintained adding that most of these threats are related to climate change.

The early warning system(EVS ) proposed to be developed by the state’s Department of Science, Technology and Environment—is an adaptive measure for climate change, using integrated communication systems to help communities prepare for dangerous climate-related events.

Mr Singh said a successful EWS can save lives and jobs, land and infrastructure and supports long-term sustainability.

Himachal Pradesh High Court has also issued notices to the NHAI as well as to the central and state governments seeking their response on how they propose to tackle the serious problem of frequent landslides along the national highways in the state.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Ravi Malimath and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua passed these orders on a PIL filed by social activist Namita Maniktala. PIL has drawn attention to the delicate geology of the state towards landslides.

The main concern of the petitioner was that local as well as tourists making footfall in the state have a fundamental right to life and it is the duty of the state government to take all those precautionary measures which could prevent landslides and save lives and lives.

The activist also urged the state or court to order the installation of landslide prediction tools, as developed by IIT, Mandi, in all landslide-prone areas.

It has been stated earlier that two major landslides in Kinnaur, took the lives of 35 people including nine tourists.

The live footage of landslides in the media not only created a negative impact on the visitors about their safety but it forced people to battle for their livelihood under threat of furious monsoon and weather vagaries.

Another high-altitude district of Lahaul-Spiti also faced landslides, blocking the flow of the Chenab river. National highways like Chandigarh-Shimla and Chandigarh-Kullu-Manali-Leh and Shimla-Kinnaur are at high risk.

Director (Tourism) of Himachal Amit Kashyap accept that fact that during the last two months landslides have adversely affected the hospitality industries impacted the footfall of tourists

“ Tourists would naturally not like to travel to places prone to landslides, flash floods, or other natural calamities, be it in Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand”.

Now one could conclude by putting a question mark that HP is really safe to travel. Live footage, pictures and a viral video of massive landslides amid reports of incessant rainfall causing death the collapse of mountains has left a number of tourists planning to visit Himachal worried.

Local people suffered valuable losses to their houses and properties taking as many as 443 plus lives as the toll is highest in the last five years.

Several national highways remained blocked due to landslides and bridges were knocked and washed down by falling rocks and tourists vehicles have beendamaged by debris.

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