Hilly areas face a high risk of landslides in the upcoming monsoon season, with geologists fearing that such natural events could result in disaster along major highways.
Ranjan Kumar Dahal, Engineering Geologist at Tribhuvan University, said earthquakes had made three major highways — Prithvi, Araniko and BP — more vulnerable to landslides. “A large landmass movement caused by tremors has made the areas along three highways more vulnerable, raising the risk of landslide to an all-time high,” he said.
The heavily congested Prithvi Highway that passes through five districts covering 174 km already faces a high risk of landslides, he said, adding that Araniko Highway (115 km), the lifeline of Nepal-China trade, and sections of BP Highway (Banepa-Bardibas) would face an increased risk of landslides during the monsoon season.
According to him, the government must set up an early warning system along the major highways and plan to operate monitoring stations to send timely alerts to the highway users. “Preparedness measures should be put in place, as disastrous landslides are inevitable on the highways during monsoon season.”
Researchers have already stated that risk of landslides is the highest in a swathe of hill districts in the central Nepal. Earthquakes that flattened hundreds of villages in 23 districts, have only multiplied that risk.
A joint satellite study conducted by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development and other agencies claim that the devastating April 25 earthquake and its aftershocks have already triggered at least 3,000 landslides in landscapes above the major rivers including Trishuli, Marshyangdi, Budhi Gandaki and Langtang.
“There is also an urgent need to relocate the villagers who were already displaced and others who face high risk of landslides following the earthquakes,” Dahal told this daily, adding that it should be done in a planned manner.
Sarbajit Prasad Mahato, Director General, Department of Mines and Geology, said 18 study teams with experts and geologists would leave for six districts — Sindhupalchowk, Dolakha, Dhading, Nuwakot, Gorkha and Rasuwa — tomorrow to assess the risk. “The teams will study the level of risk faced by settlements that need to be relocated,” he said, adding that their geological report would also identify safer places to relocate the vulnerable communities.
There is a need for rapid mobilisation and distribution of relief, as upcoming monsoon will see the situation regarding landslides and access deteriorate, emphasising the need to provide appropriate shelter solutions, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Though the meteorologists forecast the monsoon, usually expected in the beginning of June, would be ‘below normal’ this year, the researchers however pointed that perils of landslides were the worst when the monsoon across the south-west region was weak.