Natural Disasters

ISRO data shows Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag and Tehri Gharwal most prone to landslides in India

Mizoram saw 12,385 landslides from 1988-2022, the highest; followed by 11,219 in Uttarakhand and 8,070 in Tripura

By Lalit Maurya
Published: Tuesday 07 March 2023
Uttarakhand saw 11,219 landslides from 1988-2022. Photo: iStock
Uttarakhand saw 11,219 landslides from 1988-2022. Photo: iStock Uttarakhand saw 11,219 landslides from 1988-2022. Photo: iStock

Rudraprayag and Tehri Garhwal in Uttarakhand are the most landslide-prone districts in the country, according to satellite data by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). A new report looked at landslide vulnerable regions in 17 states and two Union Territories of India in the Himalayas and Western Ghats.

Rajouri, Thrissur, Pulwama, Palakkad, Malappuram, South Sikkim, East Sikkim and Kozhikode in Kerala, Jammu Kashmir and Sikkim are other high-risk districts, found Landslide Atlas of India 2023. Hyderabad-based National Remote Sensing Centre created the all-India database of nearly 80,000 landslides that occurred from 1998 to 2022.

Read more: Joshimath Sinking: Preparations for Char Dham Yatra begin; locals still clueless about permanent rehabilitation

The recent cases of land subsidence in Joshimath, Uttarakhand, captured the spotlight. On June 29, 2022, at least 79 people were killed in a landslide in the Noney district of Manipur.

Source: Landslide Atlas of India 2023

The risk analysis in the report was based on the density of human and livestock populations, which indicates the impacts on people due to these landslides. The disaster in Kedarnath in 2013 and the landslides caused by the devastating Sikkim earthquake in 2011 are also included in this atlas.

Between 1988 and 2022, the maximum number of landslides — 12,385 — were recorded in Mizoram. Uttarakhand followed it at 11,219, Tripura at 8,070, Arunachal Pradesh at 7,689, Jammu and Kashmir at 7,280. Kerala saw 6,039, Manipur at 5,494 and Maharashtra recorded 5,112 incidents of landslides.

Globally, landslides rank third in terms of deaths among natural disasters. However, deforestation due to unplanned urbanisation and human greed increases the risk of such incidents. In 2006, about 4 million people were affected by landslides, including a large number of Indians, the report said.

India is among the four major countries where the risk of landslides is the highest, it added. If we look at the figures, about 0.42 million square kilometres in the country are prone to landslides, which is 12.6 per cent of the total land area of ​​the country. 

However, the figure does not include snow-covered areas. Around 0.18 million sq km of the landslide-prone areas in the country are in North East Himalaya, including Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalaya, the atlas said. 

Read more: Heavy rainfall due to climate change increasing landslides, say experts

Of the rest, 0.14 million sq km falls in North West Himalaya (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir); 90,000 sq km in Western Ghats and Konkan hills (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra) and 10,000 sq km in Eastern Ghats of Aruku in Andhra Pradesh, the atlas added. 

Sudden heavy rains due to climate change are also increasing landslides, according to experts. Around 73 per cent of landslides in the Himalayan region are attributed to heavy rains and reduced water-absorbing capacity of the soil.

Global climate change is causing heavy rainfall that erodes steep slopes with loose soil, found a 2020 study by the Indian Institute of Technology in DelhiTherefore, the increasing number of landslides can no longer be termed as just natural disasters, as human actions have also played a major role in it. 

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