Thiruvananthapuram: In the wake of over 90 landslides occurring in the state during the recent floods, the government has directed district and local administration to prevent construction activities in ecologically fragile areas.
No construction or reconstruction should be allowed in areas which are prone to landslides. Officials have been asked to ensure that suitable land is identified and cleared after detailed scientific and environment impact assessment studies for rebuilding houses.
Though the government had issued a similar direction post -2018 floods, it has not been enforced effectively owing to a host of issues. The Geological Survey of India had carried out a detailed inspection in various parts of the state to identify people residing in landslide-prone areas.
In Idukki alone which had witnessed a number of landslides last year, 215 houses were identified in ecologically fragile and landslide-prone areas. They were given notices to shift out from the area before monsoon.
The occupants of such houses were asked to shift to the camps opened in each taluk or stay with their relatives. Most of them have shifted from the place but are not prepared to accept the compensation offered by the government. In the beginning, 22 camps were opened which have now come down to 11.
The biggest problem that district collectors are facing is non- availability of suitable land for rehabilitating families which are being moved out. n Continued on Pg 5
Since most of these families were living in big houses and owned vast land, they are reluctant to accept government’s offer of Rs 10 lakh (Rs 6 lakh for purchasing five cents of land and Rs 4 lakh for constructing the house). This, despite government allowing them to use their original land for agricultural purpose.
Officials say people are emotionally attached to their houses and land and it is not easy to convince them not to construct building in their plot. In some places, they have started rebuilding houses without waiting for government assistance.
"In areas prone to landslide, the government can look at best practices which are being adopted across the world for stabilizing soil. The land use pattern needs to be changed and use of bamboo can be an option for stabilizing the soil as is being done in Kenya. But these practices have to be put in place after detailed studies before the next rain," said a senior official.
According to a biodiversity expert, from now on whatever land is being put to use, make it mandatory to see where the land is located, what is the topography, soil condition, drainage and rainfall. Based on these outputs one must decide what kind of land use would be ideal and environment-friendly.
Another major problem is related to unscientific quarrying in landslide-prone areas. Whenever there is heavy rainfall, the collector in his capacity as district disaster management authority tends to ban quarrying in that area. But quarrying is resumed very soon.
Experts say a blanket ban on quarrying is impractical. But what is required is scientific quarrying. It is a fact that even in the authorized quarries the compliance of norms is low. Many conditions are flouted blatantly. This situation needs to be reversed to prevent disasters in future....