The Himalayan region is one of the most seismic active regions in the world. The north-east India including Sikkim and Darjeeling Hills falls under Zone V (very severe intensity zone) and has experienced a large number of earthquakes and landslides of severe intensity. The landslides on many occasions were triggered off by heavy rains which are a regular feature of this area.
Poor infrastructure, deforestation, and failure to prepare for earthquakes have put this region at very high risk. Losses from natural hazards in mountain areas have been increasing as a result of over-exploitation of natural resources and deforestation, construction of infrastructure such as building, roads, irrigation canals, dams, etc. this trend is likely to be magnified by changes in precipitation regimes and increases in extreme events likely to result from global climate change. Man-made construction facilities such as roads, houses, and industries often block the natural flow of rivers and streams, which leaves the area vulnerable to erosion, landslides, etc.
To cope up with this situation, Caritas India and the Diocese of Darjeeling with support of Caritas Germany has devised few strategies to enhance the adaptive mechanism of the communities to disaster risk reduction and environment through a project ‘Improving Disaster Risk Reduction Environment (IDRRE) and Policy Advocacy in Darjeeling and Sikkim’. The project will strengthen the capacities of 3,626 vulnerable families of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts of West Bengal and North Sikkim through awareness and training with advocacy.
The project has completed its first phase and preparing for the next phase to strengthen its impact. A two days programme was organised with the partner staff to improve the resilience of vulnerable communities of Darjeeling and North- Sikkim through greater awareness building and restoration measures. In first phase Policy on West Bengal State Disaster Management Plan has been reviewed and the amendments/corrections have been submitted to the State Inter-Agency Group for follow up. The members of the DHI are reviewing the State Action Plan for Climate Change (SAPCC) and developing case studies on the impacts of climate change in the hills of Darjeeling and Kalimpong on sectors of Agriculture, Water, Forest and Disaster. Linkages have been established with the National Disaster Management Authority who in turn has selected Kalimpong for a sample research on landslide hazards. Linkages have been established with the Ministry of Environment and Forest with the help of the Integrated Mountain Initiative. Jointly the members of DHI the state chapter of IMI is working in preparing the compendium of climate change adaptation practices in Darjeeling and Kalimpong, a project of NMHS which is implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. 34 Micro Plans Implemented by Communities of North Sikkim which were inclusive of livelihood and Disaster Management.
The focus was given on the handholding and training on the Agro-climatic practices with improving disaster risk management, providing alternate livelihood and developing an action plan for the next phase. Partner also shared the community perspective on the area for effective partnership with Caritas India.
The team visited Mandalgaon village of Nim gram panchayat in Kalimpong district of West Bengal to discuss the concerns regarding animal husbandry and less availability of water, which is also affecting their livelihood.
Under this project, 150 local Masons improved their knowledge and skills on the construction of ERS and seismic retrofitting. Communities od 15 villages and 3 Municipal wards are informed on earthquake safety measures and undertake restorative measures for their housing structures to mitigate the negative impacts of earthquakes and landslides.