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Aizawl city: Living on the edge
Zodin Sanga

 
 AIZAWL, April 25 - “Living on the edge” is what most residents of Mizoram State capital Aizawl, a picturesque city that nestles on top of beautiful hills, are practically doing in their day to day lives.

Forget about massive earthquakes that can rock the city anytime, most of the city dwellers live under the mercy of landslides that come every monsoon without fail.

This pre-monsoon, land sinking at Hunthar neighbourhood where the National Highway passes through, have forced many families out of their homes. Besides more than 50 families who had earlier been evacuated, around ten families were added to the list on Sunday, after a house collapsed due to heavy rainfall.

Hunthar Veng is one of half a dozen sinking localities of Aizawl, at an elevation of 130 metres. A Baptist church and 65 houses, including the 10 on Sunday, have been vacated in this locality since Spring last year.

The local council of Hunthar had dismantled six vulnerable buildings while the three-storied building owned by Lalrinmawi collapsed on Sunday following incessant downpour.

The past few months also saw about 60 vulnerable houses being vacated in the Ramhlun area. Also situated in this vulnerable area is a sports complex.

The other localities perched dangerously include Sihpui and Laipuitlang, where landslip killed 17 people in March 2013.

Officials said the land sinking in certain areas began accelerating five years ago.

“We mapped the most vulnerable localities and asked the people to evacuate their houses. At the same time, the department has been providing funds for construction of proper drainage and retaining walls,” C Lalpeksanga, Director of Disaster Management and Rehabilitation department, said.

Geologists’ say that most of the buildings in Aizawl can meet the same fate as the buildings lie in landslide-prone area.

According to Dr H Lallen-mawia, a retired joint director of Geology & Mineral Resources department, the soil in most parts of Aizawl is soft and the topography has an average of more than 35 degree slope. “Due to heavy rainfall and improper drainage and sewerage system, large amount of water penetrate into the soil. This makes the city highly vulnerable to disastrous landslides,” he said.

To make matters worse, most of the buildings in Aizawl were constructed without following safety norms and sub-standard materials, particularly iron rods and cement, were used. The city can face major disasters due to landslides triggered by monsoon rains or earthquake as the entire Mizoram falls under earthquake prone zone.

Built in 1890, Aizawl turns 127 years this year. But literally speaking, the youthful city looks like an old aged man waiting for the end to come.

The rapid and unplanned urbanisation has made the city more vulnerable to landslides, according to an official in the Disaster & Rehabilitation department. “Landslides in Aizawl are mainly man-made disasters. It can be prevented by taking certain precautionary measures,”' he said.

Lalhmachhuana, a senior geologist at the Geology and Mining department, said that the structure of the soil also has something to do with landslides.

Many landslide prone areas in Aizawl are covered with silpaulin sheets to prevent rain seepage. However, they remain even in the dry season. The geologist advised the cover be lifted during non-rainy season to let the sun harden the soil.

Improper sewage system, dumping of garbage in the drains and littering the environment with polythene bags are other factors behind landslides. Environmentalists have strongly advocated banning of the use of polythene bags.

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