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Kerala's Poovanchi landslide manmade?

Local residents allege that granite quarry functioning unregulated on the opposite side of the hill, where the landslide occurred, scooped out a portion equal to what was lost to the landslide.

Published: 18th October 2021 02:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th October 2021 02:54 PM   |  A+A-

The site of Poovanchi landslide

The site of Poovanchi landslide (Photo | EPS, Albin Mathew)

Express News Service

IDUKKI:  Three families that had settled on a hillside in Poovanchi perhaps never imagined that death was lurking on Saturday in the form of a massive landslide. The family members of Nazeer, Shaji and Shahul were going about their daily routine when debris and muddy water gushed down onto their houses, sweeping seven of them away. Local residents heard a loud noise when an entire hill started moving by 11.30 am. And the land along a stretch of over half a kilometre slid away in the monsoon fury. 

But was that purely an instance of natural calamity? Not necessarily. Local people suspect the landslide in Poovanchi has more to do with man’s greed than nature’s fury. Poovanchi is located in an area made fragile by unregulated quarrying. A hill in the remote village has more than two quarries. The granite quarry on the opposite side of the hill, where the landslide happened, has scooped out a portion equal to what was lost to the landslide.

A private quarry located opposite
Poovanchi hill, where the
landslide happened

Residents said the quarry was functioning till Friday. After the landslide, the work has been stopped. “If the land is sloping, even the slightest disturbance can perhaps trigger a landslide,” an Idukki-based geologist told TNIE. 

“It’s not just the pressure that rainwater puts on lower layers of the soil that can cause landslips. Quarries in the area can too. The blasts that split the granite rocks can leave cracks in the third layer of the soil in the region resulting in landslips,” the geologist said. 

The quarry is located near an area formerly known as Slamby Estate, near Koottickal. Another quarry too is functioning in its neighbourhood. “We live here praying to the almighty as the possibility of landslides looms large in the area,” said Sunny, a resident. “Despite similar tragedies having occurred in the recent past, none of the rules was followed or implemented. Worse, new quarries sprang up in the belt. No wonder the region has faced its worst tragedy now,” he said.

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