Above: Submerged houses in reservoir behind landslide dam. Photo from Darjeeling Chronicle
The Kanaka River is flowing over the dam that was created on Aug 13, 2016, it is confirmed now, but the risk of the dam failure and disaster downstream continues. In the meanwhile, the upstream villages, cut off due to road damaged and bridge submerged, are facing serious problems.[i]
As Dave Petley wrote on Aug 15, 2016, in second blog[ii] on this event, “The good news is the (overflow) channel appears to be eroding laterally rather than vertically at the time of this image, and that there also appears to be large boulders in the channel that may be inhibiting basal erosion. However, it is really important to stress that the danger is not over at this site. The dam could still enter a failure mode through piping, through erosion of the downward face or through basal erosion.”
Ground reactions Gyatso Lepcha a local resident and who was close to the site (possibly downstream from the landslide, seems from the language of the messages) when landslide occurred, wrote within minutes of the landslide on his FB page[iii]: “North Sikkim District Administrative should declare EMERGENCY now!!! the mountain is crushing down!!! massive!!!! we are blind, only smell of soil we can feel!!!!”
By evening on Aug 13 he had written: “Our Mountains slowly giving up to our greed!!!! Hi All!!!! we are all safe the Landslide has subside now, can’t hear the sound!!! phones were dead so couldn’t respond during the hour!!! Thank you all for ur concern!!! but the biggest worry is that upstream the Rongyoung river has been blocked and natural reservoir has been formed, similar to Dam reservoir, and it looks huge”. On Aug 14 morning he wrote: “the Landslide is still very active and the dust cloud is the immediate concern because it will have serious health issues!!!! The reservoir has grown like anything, approximately 2 km!!! can’t see any aerial monitoring (helicopter) operation at least to have clear idea of the reservoir formation!!!!! Luckily these two days it’s sunny clear blue sky, God forbidden if rain come soon!!!”
Another local person wrote[iv] from ground zero on India’s Independence day: “It seems that the state administration is dealing it causally. Through the responsible government functionaries in state claim about doing lot of things in helping but things in real sense are not visible at ground.”
Bijoy Gurung, after visiting the affected area describes on his FB page[v] the plight of the upper Dzongo communities, cut off from the rest of the world:
“MAROONED: One word that encapsulates Upper Dzongu and its inhabitants following the Saturday collapse of an entire hill side upon Kanaka river which dammed its flow besides Mantam, 4th Mile and spawned a 300 m lake. The sole road link has been washed away while the 4th Mile suspension bridge is somewhere beneath the nearly 70 m deep lake.
This means that the two GPUs of Tingvom and Sakyong-Pentok (each GPU has five wards) and three wards under Lingthem-Lingdem GPU are inaccessible by road. These 13 wards are expected to be cut-off from rest of the world for a long, long time. Some villagers of Upper Dzongu are trekking through three dense forest hills for almost 4 to 5 hours to reach Lower Lingthem where a motorable road exists leading to Passingdong and then towards Mangan or Gangtok.
ALL EYES TOWARDS THE SKY: It is beyond question for the old and children to make this punishing trek. It is beyond imagination to consider carrying goods or rations on bare backs towards the isolated villages in Upper Dzongu. Soon, the stock of food grains and essential items in the Upper Dzongu villages are going to run out. The old and ill people are going to need medical attention and medicines. Power supply is snapped and the last call from Upper Dzongu ended this morning as the mobile battery has gone dead. Though panic is yet to reach desperation levels, all eyes in Upper Dzongu are towards the clear blue sky. They are hoping that essential food items would be air-dropped. They are praying that the medically ill people would be air-lifted to the hospital in Mangan or Gangtok. They are waiting to see Sarkar landing in their village and feel their pain of being cast away.
EARS ON GROUND: Under the pressure of the deafening silence of isolation, the Upper Dzongu villagers also have their ears planted to the ground waiting for the footsteps of their Sikkimese brethren coming marching towards their villages with relief items, and most importantly, with a message of solidarity. When you are lonely and isolated, such gesture provides comfort and more importantly, heals your soul as you realize that you are not alone.
Lets come forward and tell the marooned people of Upper Dzongu and to those who have lost their everything at Mantam that they are not alone. Reach out to them and bring them out from the rapidly sinking ground of morale and health.”
No official information However, it is disturbing that three days after the disaster struck and even as the crisis continues, there is no official information on any of the websites.
There is no official information on the website of National Disaster Management Authority (http://www.ndma.gov.in/en/#) or the National Institute of Disaster Management (http://nidm.gov.in/default.asp#), or website of National Disaster Management of Ministry of Home Affairs (http://www.ndmindia.nic.in/), or the website of India Disaster Resource Network of Ministry of Home Affairs (http://idrn.gov.in/default.asp#) or the website of National Remote Sensing Organisation (http://www.nrsc.gov.in/) that provided satellite images of such disasters in the past.
Similarly, three days after the occurrence of the landslide, the Sikkim state government websites[vi] had no information about the disaster or what the government is doing about it.
One hopes the official agencies would soon come out with information about the disaster and what the government is doing about it.
[i] https://www.facebook.com/TheDarjeelingChronicle/posts/725090757628708, http://darjeelingtimes.com/dzongu-landslide-update-danger-is-not-over-say-international-expert-we-have-been-abandoned-say-locals/, http://kalimpongonlinenews.blogspot.in/2016/08/families-shifted-after-landslide.html
[vi] Including websites of Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority: http://www.ssdma.nic.in/, website of Department of Land Revenue and Disaster Management (http://www.sikkimlrdm.gov.in/) including its section on Natural Calamity (http://www.sikkimlrdm.gov.in/lrd/NaturalCalamity.html) or the Sikkim Govt website (https://www.sikkim.gov.in/portal/portal/StatePortal/default)
[vii] Earlier SANDRP blog on this landslide dam: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2016/08/14/landslide-dam-blocks-teesta-tributary-in-north-sikkim-major-risk-to-teesta-river-bank-communities/