Landslides in Shimla highlight faulty urban planning, say experts | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Landslides in Shimla highlight faulty urban planning, say experts

By, Shimla
Aug 22, 2023 12:04 AM IST

Most of the buildings that were swept away in the recent landslide in the state capital were built on the path of drains or streams, experts said

Rain-triggered landslides in Shimla last week have highlighted the vulnerability of developments along streams and water bodies; shown up the hollowness of a belief that reinforced cement concrete (RCC) structures offer resilience and strength in the face of natural disasters; and indicated the need for a geology-based approach to urban planning, experts said.

Shimla has been growing rapidly; even areas in the periphery of the city, prominent ridges of Sanjauli, Cemetery, Dhalli, Bhattakufar, Mehli, Kangnadhar, Khalini, and Bharari, are seeing unplanned growth (Gerd Eichmann /Wikimedia Commons)
Shimla has been growing rapidly; even areas in the periphery of the city, prominent ridges of Sanjauli, Cemetery, Dhalli, Bhattakufar, Mehli, Kangnadhar, Khalini, and Bharari, are seeing unplanned growth (Gerd Eichmann /Wikimedia Commons)

Residents of Krishnanagar in Shimla have been forced to abandon their houses; people in settlements in the vicinity of St Edwards school find themselves in a precarious situation; and in neighbouring Solan district , in the once-thriving village of Shamti , RCC structures built on streams have simply given way.

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“Geological factors, including soil stability, water flow patterns, and terrain characteristics, must be considered when crafting urban development plans. Governments and local authorities must collaborate with geological experts to create sustainable urban spaces,” says SS Randhawa, the principal scientific officer of the Himachal Pradesh Council for Science, Technology and Environment (HIMCOSTE), who has been appointed coordinator of the committee constituted to study causes for landslides in Shimla.

The attraction of building structures near water bodies needs to be tempered by a comprehensive understanding of geological dynamics, he said, adding that ill-informed construction practices could endanger lives and property.

So far, people have been buying land without studying the strata. Most of the buildings that were swept away in the recent landslide in the state capital were built on the path of drains or streams, experts said. Former deputy mayor of Shimla, Tikender Panwar, has been demanding an inquiry into last week’s landslides by a Supreme Court judge, claiming that many of the properties damaged were built despite their known vulnerability.

Structural experts agree that several sites are unsuitable for construction. “There is need to check the sewage disposal infrastructure, too. Shimla consumes 42 MLD (million litre a day) of water but only 15% of it reaches the tank. Where does the rest of it go?” asked Rakesh Sharma, a retired engineer in chief of the state’s Jal Shakti department.

Shimla has been growing rapidly; even areas in the periphery of the city, prominent ridges of Sanjauli, Cemetery, Dhalli, Bhattakufar, Mehli, Kangnadhar, Khalini, and Bharari, are seeing unplanned growth. “People are building houses with cheap construction material, making these structures even more vulnerable,” said the town’s chief architect Rajiv Sharma.

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