Sinking reality: 201 Himachal villages facing subsidence, finds study - Hindustan Times
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Sinking reality: 201 Himachal villages facing subsidence, finds study

By, Shimla
Oct 06, 2023 06:21 PM IST

Solan has the maximum, 51, villages where the land has reportedly sunk. It is followed by Mandi, which was the epicenter of the natural disasters in July and August, with 46 such villages and Chamba with 41. This was revealed in a report prepared by the state emergency operation cell of disaster management authority.

Having seen its worst ever monsoon in recorded history, Himachal Pradesh is now on the edge over another development -- 201 villages across the state are experiencing land subsidence.

Land subsidence refers to gradual settling or sudden sinking of the ground owing to subsurface movement of earth materials. (HT File)
Land subsidence refers to gradual settling or sudden sinking of the ground owing to subsurface movement of earth materials. (HT File)

Land subsidence refers to gradual settling or sudden sinking of the ground owing to subsurface movement of earth materials.

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It can happen for a host of reasons, man-made or natural, such as the removal of water, oil, natural resources, or mining activities. Earthquakes, soil erosion, and soil compaction are also some of the causes of land subsidence.

Solan has the maximum, 51, villages where the land has reportedly sunk. It is followed by Mandi, which was the epicenter of the natural disasters in July and August, with 46 such villages and Chamba with 41.

This was revealed in a report prepared by the state emergency operation cell of disaster management authority.

Prolonged wet spell causing land to sink

As per geologists, the prolonged wet spell, spanning over five months, caused the soil to be become supersaturated, thus leading to land subsidence incidents.

Himachal got 63% excess rain in April, 83% in May, 19% in June and 75% in July.

Sunil Dhar, professor and head of the department of environmental sciences, Central University of Jammu, explains, “The Himalayan region has loose strata and the soil has become supersaturated due to the prolonged and intense rain over five months, which is causing a mass movement of soil. The short but intense spells of rain made things worse.”

Others also attribute the problem to illegal land mining.

State geologist Puneet Guleria says, “We have seen cases where crusher owners dug up the river bed. In Anhui and Rajol villages in Jawali sub-division of Kangra, there was a problem of underground seepage of water due to digging in the Beas river bed.”

“Himachal Pradesh is environmentally fragile and ecologically vulnerable. The occurrence of natural hazards due to climatological variations is a matter of concern,” he added.

DC Rana, director, state disaster management, said, “Landslides and land subsidence are natural but this is for the first time that we have witnessed so many cases in one go. The severity is worrying and requires national attention.”

Govt panel to probe matter

In view of the developments, chief secretary Prabodh Saxena has constituted an expert committee, involving revenue department officials and others, to carry out a causative analysis of landslide and land subsidence incidence.

Saxena said, “Considering the sharp increase in landslides in different districts, the state government has planned to tie up with different academic and research institutions in and outside the state to prepare a report on the landslides and assist the state government in adopting scientific mitigation measures.”

Experts from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, Himachal Pradesh University, Indian Institute of Technology, Mandi, National Institute of Technology, Hamirpur, Central University, Dharamshala, Geological Survey of India, Chandigarh, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and Central Building Research Institute Roorkee will be carrying out preliminary geological investigations at 10-15 most vulnerable sites in each district and submitting a report to the state government in about three months. These institutions will also give suggestions on the further course of action.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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