Safety Measures for Landsliding in Kerala
Investigations of still dangerous slopes in Idukki, where 2018 landslides damaged thousands of homes. Partnered with Kerala University, Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA), local officials.
People living in this Kerala home had to evacuate. The experience of many families was far worse. Photo: Hari Kumar
Extreme rainfall across the state of Kerala in August 2018 caused extensive flooding in low-lying areas and triggered thousands of landslides in hilly terrain. People are still in danger during future rains as the debris from many landslides remains unstable, and in some cases the landslides may grow or fail again.
Every monsoon season in Kerala, rains triggers landslides in the hilly areas. But the 2018 rainfall was much higher than normal and dramatically increased landslide deaths, injuries, housing losses, infrastructure damage, displaced families, and livelihood impacts.
Climate change may cause such “bad years” to become more common, which is why the state government has resolved to rebuild a resilient Nava Keralam (New Kerala). GeoHazards International is providing technical assistance and recommending ways to protect people and infrastructure from future landslide disasters.
Our short-term measures focus on the immediate risk during the next monsoon. Our long term solutions target development on fragile slopes, with policies to reduce practices that make landslides likely.
Policy reforms and action planning will draw from our work assisting Mizoram state, which implemented sweeping changes to reduce landslide risk, and which India’s National Disaster Management Authority has cited as an example for other hilly regions to follow. The UN conducted a Post Disaster Needs Assessment following the Kerala floods and the report also referred to the Mizoram example for risk reduction.
Arts College Kerala
We started by investigating dangerous slopes in Idukki district, where the 2018 landslides damaged thousands of homes. We worked with partners GeoHazards Society India; Professor Sajinkumar of the Department of Geology, University of Kerala; the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA); and local officials.
We intend to continue our work with state, district, and local governments to improve regulations for hillslope development and drainage networks, particularly in areas of high landslide hazard. We also plan to assist in landslide hazard mapping, using state-of-the-art-science, and create maps at a scale useful for local decision makers. With this key resource, they can guide safer land use and development.
Munich Re has provided support for our initial work in Kerala.
The Changes Envisaged:
Increased local understanding of landslide hazards
Policy reforms for safer slope development
Landslide hazard susceptibility maps scaled for local use
Monitoring of dangerous ongoing landslides
Working across disciplines on solutions: KSDMA, Kerala University, Geological Survey India-Kerala, several departments, and technical experts.