BENGALURU: The continuing landslides in the districts of the Western Ghats -- Chikkamagaluru, Dakshina Kannada, Hassan and Kodagu -- expose the short-sighted policies of the Centre and state.
The recent landslides in the Mullayanagiri hill range exposes the insensitivity of the authorities.
Experts say heavy rain is not abnormal in the Malnad region, but unscientific construction going on unabated on the fragile Ghats, coupled with global warming, are the reasons for landslides in this region.
GS Sitaram, former geo-scientist, Geological Survey of India, says, “The soil profile up to 8-10 feet was hard, cracks had developed and spread in all directions due to warming. With heavy rain, these cracks opened up and resulted in land sliding towards the road. This did not happen over weeks but over decades, due to change in the ecology of this region.”
DV Girish, wildlife conservationist, adds, “We are experiencing severe drought and severe water runoffs. All rivers, tanks and dams are flooded. At the landscape level, the earth is unable to absorb water, resulting in high runoffs, causing landslides and flooding. Destruction of forests and roads, concretization, pesticides, encroachment of river beds and global warming has led to this situation.”
Last year, construction of a road was taken up in the Mullayanagiri range, says Girish. Despite activists urging the authorities not to take up work, the hills were blasted, making them unstable.
“Micro and major cracks have developed due to blasting, and heavy rain has widened these cracks, causing landslides on these fragile hill ranges,” Sitaram adds.
“We had appealed to the district administration to stop the project as the region could become unstable, like Kodagu, but they continued building the road through Mullayanagiri. Now, everybody can see what’s happened, with landslides occurring in the past few days,” said Girish.
Experts stress that the prevailing unscientific development in the Western Ghats will prove to be dangerous in the coming years, resulting in frequent landslides, and the authorities need to consult the Border Roads Organization, which maintains slope stability while building roads in the Himalayas.
It is imperative to retain the natural topography as much as possible, especially in the hilly regions.