It is developed by University of Alabama in Huntsville in the U.S.

A sensor-based landslip prediction and early warning system developed by the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), United States, may be installed in Idukki under a collaborative research project involving the Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB).

The board has initiated talks with one of the scientists involved in the NASA-funded project to explore the possibility of testing the system in a landslip-prone area in Idukki.

Developed for Central America where landslips pose a threat to motorists on winding roads, the system depends on a network of wireless sensors erected on a slope.

Placed one kilometre apart above ground, the sensors, which cost about $300 each, register ground movement and record rainfall and soil moisture. The data is transferred to an off-site computer hosting a software model that provides advance warning of a landslip.

‘Very relevant’

Udaysankar S. Nair of the Department of Atmospheric Science, UAH, said the system would be highly relevant for a place such as Idukki with unstable slopes. Talking to The Hindu, Dr. Nair who is on a brief visit to his hometown here, said the software model developed for Central America could be replicated in Idukki to predict landslips.

He explained that the model was designed to account for the spatial variability of multiple factors such as rainfall, soil type and slope, one of the major difficulties in predicting the timing and location of slope failures.

“The hazard zonation maps prepared by the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) could provide the base data for the software model. By feeding rainfall data and slope information into the model, it is possible to come up with an early warning system for landslips.”

Dr. Nair said satellite data over a long period could be analysed to track land use changes in Idukki and other areas, and study how they influenced landslips.

“The data can be used to assess the type of land use changes that are disruptive and identify those that are sustainable.”

To save lives

KSBB chairman Oommen V. Oommen and member secretary K.P. Laladhas held discussions with Dr. Nair here on Thursday.

“Though our primary objective in installing the system in Idukki was to conserve the biodiversity in the Western Ghats, its potential to save precious lives and property is more relevant today in the context of the recent tragedy at Cheeyappara,” Dr. Oommen said. He said the wireless sensor network could be replicated in Uttarakhand and hill stations across the country where land use changes had made the slopes susceptible to destructive landslips.

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