Landslides have become a recurrent concern in India, amplified by seismic events that threaten to worsen their frequency and impact. The geographical susceptibility to landslides is underscored by the Landslide Hazard Zonation Map, revealing that over 12% of India’s land is susceptible to these disasters. The northern Himalayan states and regions with hilly terrain like Kerala have borne the brunt of landslides. Despite this escalating crisis, the prevailing development paradigm in India remains largely unchanged, favoring large-scale infrastructure projects and economic activities over sustainable practices.

Increasing Landslide Vulnerability:

  • Deforestation, mining, and construction in sensitive areas have intensified, straining the soil’s stability and leading to more frequent landslides.
  • Dams and hydropower projects, through tree felling and rock blasting, weaken mountain slopes and contribute to soil instability.
  • Road construction in hilly terrains alters slopes and amplifies vulnerabilities during heavy rainfall.
  • Unsustainable tourism practices further strain resources and ecosystems, heightening the risk of landslides.

Climate Change Amplifying Landslide Risk:

  • Unsustainable activities exacerbate climate change, which, in turn, results in intensified rainfall, cloudbursts, and high-speed winds, compounding the landslide threat.

Needed Paradigm Shift:

  • Enforcing Development Restrictions: Strict regulations against construction, road building, and dams in high vulnerability zones are crucial.
  • Transition to Dynamic Planning: Embrace green infrastructure and dynamic planning for sustainable and resilient settlements.
  • Guided Settlement Patterns: Promote agriculture in valleys and moderate slopes while restraining large settlements in high-risk zones.
  • Shift to Stakeholder Business Models: Move from shareholder to stakeholder business practices, integrating eco-efficiency and social responsibility.
  • Enhancing Local Engagement: Strengthen collaboration between local governments and civil society to foster ownership and resource responsibility.
  • Mitigation Measures: Encourage large-scale afforestation and the construction of bunds to mitigate landslide impacts.
  • Innovative Drainage Solutions: Implement horizontal drains to reduce soil pressure by channelling excess water away from slopes.

Addressing Landslide Hazard:

  • Holistic Approach: Landslide mitigation necessitates comprehensive risk analysis, geotechnical assessments, risk maps, early warning systems, and evacuation plans.
  • Structural Mitigation: Alongside non-structural measures, structural interventions are essential to minimize the impact of landslides.

The escalating menace of landslides in India underscores the urgency for a paradigm shift in development strategies. By prioritizing sustainable practices, enforcing regulations, and involving local communities, the country can mitigate the adverse effects of landslides and create a more resilient future.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish May 11, 2024