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State govt failed to implement norms in landslide-prone Darjeeling hills

construction of buildings in the landslide-prone Darjeeling hills
A geophysicist has said the state government failed to implement norms prescribed by an expert committee for construction of buildings in the landslide-prone Darjeeling hills.
"Darjeeling's mountain rock is quite fragile and its compactness is low. Besides, the area receives very high rainfall and its soil has extremely low water retention ability. Under these circumstances, the landslide was always waiting to happen, especially since appropriate building norms are hardly followed," said Tapas Ghatak, a geophysicist and a former urban development official with the state government.
Ghatak said though a state-level expert committee, of which he was a member, had suggested in 2000 a number of norms for setting up houses in the hill town, they mostly remained on paper. "According to norms, there should not be any construction on land where the slope is more than 30 degrees, but one even finds massive buildings on 65 degree slopes."
Building big houses on steep slopes adds to the pressure on the land and makes the area more prone to landslides.
"If one compares point to point, then Darjeeling is no less vulnerable than Uttarakhand. Darjeeling's population density is greater, rainfall is higher and it has more rivers. The only saving grace is that Darjeeling is less vulnerable to earthquakes than Uttarakhand," he explained.
Mamata Desai of the Netaji Subhas Research Institute in Calcutta, which does research work on the environment, said: "In the 1930s, the infrastructure of Darjeeling was created for an area of five square km and meant for around 20,000 to 30,000 people."
According to her, though Darjeeling town has almost doubled and population increased six folds - actually much more if tourists are considered - there has been little augmentation of the infrastructure.

The Telegraph

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