Call to heed warnings and save Nilgiris

Lack of drainage, poor slope management are the main cause of landslides

Udhagamandalam: Serious concern about the hills’ ecology, expressed frequently by individuals and organisations both within and outside the district, should no longer be dismissed as mere ravings of prophets of doom. This view is rapidly gaining ground in various parts of the Nilgiris consequent upon the recent catastrophe from which it is struggling to recover.

People from a cross section of the society told The Hindu here on Saturday that if warnings had been heeded the loss of life caused by the recent heavy rain and landslips could have been minimized.

Rain-hit: The landslip affected Ooty-Kotagiri road being temporarily strengthened on Saturday. — Photo:M.Sathyamoorthy

Blaming myopic policies and the growing interest in short term gains for the sorry state of affairs, they said that if a change in mind-set was not brought about forthwith the ecological and economic consequences would be disastrous.

Encroachment, particularly in ecologically sensitive areas, should be frowned upon and not encouraged because it not only affected but also placed in jeopardy the lives of law abiding citizens residing nearby. The concerned citizens added that political leaders should give up the policy of appeasing small time politicians who took up cudgels for encroachers and land grabbers.

Referring to the recent tragedy, the former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, M.R.Srinivasan, said that though it was a natural disaster the loss could have been averted or minimized if developments that had taken place over the years had been in harmony with nature.

The Director, Nilgiri Documentation Centre, Dharmalingam Venugopal lamented that though the Geological Survey of India (GSI) had warned a few decades ago that the stage of preventing landslides had long passed and that future efforts should be to mitigate the impact of and increase the preparedness for such occurrences, the lessons had not been learnt well because the impact of the present landslides have been widespread.

Greed and speed appear to be the main villains of this avoidable tragedy.

Lack of drainage and poor slope management appear to be the main cause of slides in tea gardens and cultivated areas.

He pointed out that in mountainous areas world over slope management and drainage were given utmost importance by farmers and administrators.

Stating that roads, lifelines of the mountain economy, were also a cause of disaster, Mr. Venugopal said that experts had suggested that engineers and geologists should make a thorough survey of the Nilgiris roads and monitor their stability.

In coming days when rainfall patterns are likely to swing to extremes because of climate change, long spells of dry weather will be followed by heavy rains, say analysts. In the Nilgiris, where rainfall exceeding 15 cm is invariably followed by major slides, one can well imagine the impact of rain exceeding 50 cm or even 100 cm, which are not unlikely.

Stating that the Nilgiris should enhance manifold its level of preparedness to mitigate the impact of landslides, the Director said

that vulnerable areas should be identified and people there should be warned through portent warning signals.

Maintenance of slope stability should be also given top priority in both privately and publicly owned lands. Constructions on such vulnerable spots should be prevented.

The district administration should launch an intensive campaign for slope stability in the Nilgiris.

The depleting bio mass cover on the slopes, especially on the road margins should be acknowledged and and due importance should be given for tunneling as is the case the worldover.

D. Radhakrishnan – From THE HINDU

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