Study must for master plan: Sen – official wants tech colleges in battle against landslides

The Telegraph

Ardhendu Sen inspects a landslide-hit portion of East Main Road at Chinna Dara in Kalimpong on Thursday. Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha

People cross a makeshift bamboo bridge after a culvert was washed away by a landslide at Chinna Dara. Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha

Kalimpong, Aug. 27: Home secretary Ardhendu Sen today said a thorough study would have to be conducted in the hills before a master plan was worked out to battle landslides.

The need to prepare the master plan for the Kalimpong subdivision was mooted at a meeting attended by the home secretary and a local NGO.

After attending a series of meetings at Deolo, about 5km from here today, Sen said: “We will have to identify an agency which can do the job and take the help of engineering colleges and universities.”

Save The Hills (STH), the NGO actively engaged in espousing the landslide issue, gave a power-point presentation on the damage caused by the mudslips in and around the town. Apart from Sen, principal secretary of disaster management M. L. Meena, Darjeeling district magistrate Surendra Gupta and Kalimpong subdivisional officer Amyas Tshering were also present at the meeting. STH president Praful Rao, who made the presentation along with colleague Upendra Mani Pradhan, said the master plan should be prepared after thoroughly studying the hill topography, land use pattern, building plans and drainage system.

“A comprehensive master plan is a must for a long term solution, although we must realise it will not be possible to stop landslides from occurring completely. It is also important to have a proper disaster management programme in place,” he added.

The home secretary said the subdivision had suffered a loss of Rs 80 crore in the recent landslides and 400 houses had been fully damaged.

The subdivisional officer and district magistrate, he said, would prepare a report on the basis of which Rs 25,000 would be given to each family whose houses had been completely damaged in landslides last week.

Two other immediate measures that the administration would take are diversion of streams to save houses and villages and construction of temporary pathways in places where bridges and culverts have been completely damaged. “For the long-term restoration, we are making an estimate,” said Sen.

On NH31A, the home secretary said the Darjeeling DM will meet the NHPC in a day or two to impress upon it the need to expedite the restoration of the road above its dam site at 27 Mile, about 25km from here. The landslide at that spot is the worst on the highway that connects Siliguri to Kalimpong and Gangtok.

The home secretary was in Darjeeling yesterday where he agreed to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s proposal to add 1400 houses to the list of house owners who will be compensated for the havoc wreaked by Cyclone Aila in May.

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