Rajamala tragedy: Kerala needs to act bold on land utilisation strategy, says geo-scientist CP Rajendran

C. P. Rajendran, noted geo-scientist and Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Kerala has to come up with bold imaginative, but humane, initiatives on environmental land management and new utilisation rules for land and water while maintaining the sustainability of drainage basins considering all related uncertainties, C. P. Rajendran, noted geo-scientist and Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bengaluru.

“Land use zoning regulation that incorporates landslide susceptibility data should be made mandatory. The data that is made available by the agencies like the Geological Survey of India indicates that out of the approximately 39,000 square km area of Kerala, the hill area having slopes higher than 10 degree constitutes about 19,000 square km and most of the scarps are thinly forested and further weakened by human activities,” he told The Hindu in an e-mail interview a day after the Rajamala landslip tragedy in Idukki district.

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Stating that there is no dearth of scientific data on landslide vulnerability in the State, Prof. Rajendran said that the landslide susceptibility map of the state will help the administrators to understand what type of landslide size is expected in different areas.

“I don’t think there is any dearth of scientific data on landslide vulnerability in the state although some specific geotechnical and geological studies may be required in some areas. To my knowledge, several detailed technical reports have been submitted to the State Government at various times. It is high time that we came up with a program that would enable us to use such data to mitigate the hazard,” he said.

Prof. Rajendran said that it is important that both the local and state authorities should be relying on scientific reports on the landslide vulnerabilities to reach decisions on land allocations for various constructions in the hilly districts of Idukki and Wayanad.

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“In these decisions, local soil properties and slope stability should be important factors to be considered, rather than political expediency. A blueprint that demarcates areas suitable for habitation and those to be left untouched should help strictly implementing strictly the basic tenets of land zonation,” he said.

Prof. Rajendran suggested drafting a comprehensive master plan on land utilisation strategy based on a clear environmental vision at macro and micro-levels to ensure that encroachment is minimal. These documents should contain clear guidelines for constructions, including recommended designs of houses that will match with local landscape and scenery.

On the landslips near Rajamala, Prof. Rajendran said that it is not clear if this particular locality has been identified as a landslide prone area in any previous studies.

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“But the fact is, since 2018, Kerala has been witnessing unusually high rainfall that has destabilised the already vulnerable hill slopes in the high ranges of the state. Some of them that may not have seen landslides in the past are now become potentially vulnerable to heavy sliding,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 8:41:35 PM |

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