Highlands in Kerala on shaky grounds

NCESS finds land subsidence, lateral spread, and soil piping immediate threat to life and property

Updated - November 28, 2021 09:53 pm IST

Published - August 13, 2019 11:23 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Highly destructive: A file photo of a landslip, triggered by the 2018 floods, at a forest in Kannur district of Kerala.

Highly destructive: A file photo of a landslip, triggered by the 2018 floods, at a forest in Kannur district of Kerala.

Destabilising geological processes, coupled with extreme rainfall events and unscientific farming and construction activities, pose a serious threat to human habitation in the highlands of Kerala, according to scientists.

A team of scientists from the National Centre for Earth Science Studies (NCESS) here who carried out an investigation in the wake of the heavy rain and devastating floods in August 2018 had found that land subsidence, lateral spread, and soil piping were an immediate threat to life and property in the uplands.

During the investigation, which primarily focussed on landslip-prone areas in Thrissur and Kannur districts, the researchers found huge cracks across farmlands and dwellings.

Many houses had developed cracks on the walls and basement, rendering them unsuitable for habitation.

Monitoring network

Based on the recommendations of the NCESS, the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has initiated steps to establish a network of landslip monitoring stations in the highlands. The units based on acoustic emission technology will also have an early warning mechanism to alert the local community. Secretary, MoES, M.Rajeevan said moves were afoot to set up 10 monitoring stations.

“Heavy intense rainfall triggers slope failure in locations where lateral spread and soil piping have occurred,” explains V. Nandakumar, Head, Crustal Process Group, NCESS.


“In the areas we surveyed, most of the slopes were used for raising crops and farmers had blocked the natural drainage systems. Any developmental activity like construction of roads and buildings in such vulnerable areas requires remedial measures for slope stabilisation.”

The team also surveyed areas in Malappuram and Wayanad, including Kavalappara and Meppadi, where rescue teams are still sifting through the debris of destructive landslips which occurred last week.

Alarming situation

“We had found the situation in the highlands alarming,” says Dr. Nandakumar. “Lateral spreading, subsidence, and crack development are quite unusual phenomena and the sites need immediate rehabilitation.”

The team alerted the District Collectors in Thrissur, Kannur, and Kasaragod, outlining the remedial steps to be adopted. The scientists also recommended the formation of a trained task force for the highlands to monitor ground signatures like hollows, cracks, and water spouts that often precede land subsidence, lateral spread, and landslips.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.