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Herojit Nongmaithem

Herojit Nongmaithem

Herojit Nongmaithem is a senior Geologist at Geological Survey of India North Eastern Region. He is a regular contributor of Imphal Times and writes articles relating to Geology.
Herojit can be contacted at [email protected]

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Landslide disaster: Are Mitigation measures effective in context with North Eastern India!!!!

Landslide has been a major disaster commonly faced by the north eastern states including our state Manipur since time immemorial. The earliest recorded disastrous landslide in the NER region was on 19th August, 1950 (killing > 500 lives) which was the aftershock effect of the Great Assam earthquake (~8.6 Mw) that was recorded on 15th August, 1950. Since then innumerable landslides have been occurring claiming lives, domesticated animals, building/structure collapses, blockage of highways, roads, damage to the natural slopes which ultimately hampers the socio-economic development in the region. In spite of the government’s attempt to mitigate or so to say reduce the effect of this natural disaster, the landslide still happens to be periodic havoc till date. News of frequent disturbances, blockage of national highways, even human and livestock deaths are prime time in most of the news channels, print media, etc. during monsoon season.
It is estimated that economic loss due to landslides may reach between 1-2% of the gross national product in many developing countries. Evaluating and mitigating the landslide hazard and risk is a major challenge for the technocrats and decision makers in the developing world as 80% of the reported fatalities due to landslide is within the developing countries. In India, about 0.42 million sq. km or 12.6% of land area, excluding the snow covered area, is prone to landslide hazard. Out of this, 0.18 million sq. km falls in North East Himalaya, including Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalaya; 0.14 million sq. km falls in North West Himalaya (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir); 0.09 million sq. km in Western Ghats and Konkan hills (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra) and 0.01 million sq. km in Eastern Ghats of Aruku area in Andhra Pradesh. The landslide-prone Himalayan terrain falls in the maximum earthquake-prone zones (Zone-IV and V) where earthquakes of Modified Mercalli intensity VIII to IX can occur, and thus, are also prone to earthquake-triggered landslides. The most recent example is the aftermath of 18 September 2011 Sikkim Earthquake in the Sikkim-Darjeeling Himalayas.
When viewed scientifically a number of technical causes for landslides come up. The end number  of  scientific causes may be  classed into  geological  factors, morpho-physiological factors, and factors related with anthropogenic activity. The geological factors may be elaborated into materials affected by geological structures-disconformities, joints, fissures; weathering effects, rainfall-snowfall impacts; earthquakes; mechanical (engineering) properties of materials-permeability contrast, material contrast. The morpho-physiological causes include slope angle, different erosional processes, slope loading, vegetation changes, hydrological condition, etc. The anthropogenic activity will contagiously include all possible changes in the environment that directly or indirectly affect the slope. Construction projects roads-buildings-tunnels, Quarrying-mining-blasting; deforestation are few to be listed that directly affect the slope.
Remedial methods may be like, strengthening the material, geometrical modification to slope, support system- breast wall, retaining wall, drainage control. Though the causes are manifold, for each and every cause, perfect or accurate scientific solutions are available nowadays. But these solutions are a vague to consider the economic input that is required. This can be elaborated by an example to remedial a landslide that subsided a bamboo hut located on the edge of Imphal-Moreh road at Tengoupal by geo technical solution say- excavating the overburden slope, drainage to divert excess water, it may sometime be economically cheap to allocate a new plot to construct a new hut with full compensation.
Critical reason for landslide management comes up as landslide is often causes by a combination of a number of causes. Hence prioritization of each causes need to be assessed. This part is to be dealt by specific agencies that have enough human and technological strength. But it cannot cover all the parts of the hilly parts of the state or even the length of the important national and state highways at a go. That is why we still are not able to cope up the wrath of the landslides. State disaster department when dealing with the landslides at Noneh-Kotlen to protect the National Highway, people are dying in Tamenglong district due to landslide. The point is that the government can’t provide all out technical measures to solve the landslide issue in every nook and corner of the state.
As rainfall is unmanageable or to rectify the faulty geological parameters by geo engineering projects are costly, it may seem that there is no possible cure for the problem.  But as the saying goes, something is better than nothing, we should now react ourselves to that something mode instead of the present nothing mode. When unity can defeat any sort of obstacle, there is nothing impossible. Only we need to act as an organised mechanism against this natural disaster. An effective mode of awareness to the persons utilizing the slopes by the state government is inevitable going parallel with the scientific hunt to prevent landslides. The ground level persons, viz. the people who are constructing houses on the hill slopes are should be educated about the simple use of safety measures while utilizing the slopes. Brief brochures, publicity on the first hand information of landslide needs to be propagated. Or simply the local or the district administration can devise to develop early warning system during peak rainy seasons (Darjeeling and East Sikkim districts have already devise an early warning system for landslides). Such measures are very cost effective comparing with those huge scientific researches where funding is involved. No doubt, faithful scientific researches for landslide susceptibility for huge and specific developmental projects like National Sports University, National Highway Projects, Railway tracts and tunnels should compulsorily be done by the authority.

Google Earth- a user friendly device for practical ground and aerial survey of the Earth

Google- a word so common to all initially came up in 1998 as a private company and Larry Page & Sergey Brin were the founders even when they were Ph. D. scholars of Standford University, California. Today it has been rated as one of the biggest multinational technology company amongst the big four-Amazon, Apple & Facebook. It grew enormously and came up with a chain of products, acquisitions, and partnerships beyond Google’s core search engine (Google Search). Services designed for work and productivity (Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides), email (Gmail/Inbox), scheduling and time management (Google Calendar), cloud storage (Google Drive), instant messaging and video chat (Google Allo, Duo, Hangouts), language translation (Google Translate), mapping and navigation (Google Maps, Waze, Google Earth, Street View), video sharing (YouTube), note-taking (Google Keep), and photo organizing and editing (Google Photos) are some of them. The company leads the development of the Android mobile operating system, the Google Chrome web browser, and Chrome OS, a lightweight operating system based on the Chrome browser. The Google.com is the most visited website in the world.
Amongst the company’s endless products, the most commonly used by the scientific community for having the first hand information of any location is the Google Earth. Such initial information and results for any part of the earth can be easily interfaced to most of the geographic information system (GIS) softwares which ultimately can be linked to many prioritised scientific researches. To define it, Google Earth is a system based program that renders 3D representation of Earth based primarily on satellite imagery.
The program maps the Earth by superimposing satellite images, aerial photography, and GIS data onto a 3D globe, allowing users to see every location and landscapes from various angles. Users can explore the globe by entering addresses, name of any location and geographic coordinates, or by using any input keys once it’s operational in the desktop versions. The app is also available for the smart phones as well and specially meant for navigation purposes. Imagery resolution used in Google Earth ranges from 15 metres of resolution to 15 centimetres. For much of the Earth, Google Earth uses digital elevation model data collected by NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. This creates the impression of three-dimensional terrain, even where the imagery is only two-dimensional.
Special features of Google Earth provide a series of other tools through the desktop application. This utility helps one to analyses the terrain condition, morphological and physiographical set up, features  of regional scale; streams, river systems, mountains, deltas, plains, plateaus, etc. The time lapsed images of a same area further provide the opportunity to assess the temporal change whether it be the forest, roads, landslides and even the cloud coverage. Additional globes for the Moon and Mars are available, as well as a tool for viewing the night sky. A flight simulator game is also included.
Other features allow users to view photos from various places uploaded to Panoramio, information provided by Wikipedia on some locations, and Street View imagery. The web-based version of Google Earth also includes Voyager, a feature that periodically adds in-program tours, often presented by scientists and documentarians.
Google Earth shows 3D building models in some cities, including photorealistic 3D imagery. The first 3D buildings in Google Earth were created using 3D modeling applications such as SketchUp and, beginning in 2009, Building Maker, and were uploaded to Google Earth via the 3D Warehouse. Till February, 2019 entire North America, Japan, Australian New Zealand, parts of South America, Europe, South Africa, Egypt, islands along the East Pacific ocean have 3D coverage Antartica being the only left out continent.  
Since 2009, the Google Ocean feature allows users to zoom below the surface of the ocean and view the 3D bathymetry. Supporting over 20 content layers, it contains information from leading scientists and oceanographers.  In June 2011, Google increased the resolution of some deep ocean floor areas from 1-kilometre grids to 100 metres. The sharper focus is available for about 5 percent of the oceans like in the Hudson off New York City, the Wini Seamount near Hawaii, and the Mendocino Ridge off the U.S Pacific coast.
Discussing a practical use of Google Earth is that one can easily visualize the scenic beauty and adventurous route, the steep gradients of Shirui Peak, aerial view of Loktak Lake within few minutes. One can even map the boundary of each constituency, municipal corporation -zila parisad jurisdictions. Planning and execution of any developmental programme can be easily geo tagged and verified using it. Because of its portability (mobile//tablet/laptop) and user friendly nature even a commoner can do many findings that are immensely helpful for local administrations, environmentally based NGO’s, teachers and students for study projects. A vivid example of the time lapsed images (2009-19) of the Langol reserve forest and surrounding area clearly showed the emergence of new NIT complex during the last decade.
Despite its manifold utilities, it has been viewed by some as a threat to privacy and national security, leading to the program being banned in many countries. Some countries have requested that certain areas be obscured in Google’s satellite images, usually areas containing military facilities. Many a times, the NASA’s satellite even forgoes the international and national boundaries of the Indian Government which can be misleading to the common masses. When zoomed in much detail, the satellite images and aerial photos have mismatched boundaries due to differences in the date of the images. Names of many places are in American language hence drastically different with the local ones. 3D viewing and terrain analyses also require some training otherwise the first time users can develop pseudo visuals. Considering the pros and cons, Google Earth is every geoscientist’s first choice of foundational research of any part of the earth. The best part is that the programme is freeware and anyone can access it with the internet connectivity.

The 36th International Geological Congress-2020

An aged history of more than 140 years, the International Geological Congress (IGC) has come a long way since their inception in 1878 in Paris. With less than 200 days left for the 36th edition of the Congress to kick off, the geoscientist community is on the pinnacle of the scientific display. A second time host India, with the scientific support of Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan will be hosting the 36th IGC at New Delhi during 2nd to 8th March, 2020. “Geosciences: The Basic Science for a Sustainable Future” the much relevant theme in this 21st century has been the framed with the hope that this will echo the aspiration of the region from emerging geosciences in respect of its new techniques and understanding of processes in the South East Asian countries. Geological Survey of India (GSI), the third oldest serving survey organisation in the world has shouldered the burden of being the nodal agency to host and organised the 36th IGC in collaboration with the partners viz. Ministry of Earth Sciences, Ministry of Mines and the Indian National Science Academy. While the supportive scientific help is to be rendered by Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, Bangladesh Academy of Sciences, Pakistan Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Sciences of Sri Lanka. Indian Geology is nature’s gift to the Earth Science Community, with its rich rock record of geological events from the Archean, to the present day tectonics and from the oceans to Mars. More than 3 billion years of history of rocks, with Gold, PGE and Diamond deposits in the Archean craton have provided insights into the Archean tectonics and thermal regimes. The Deccan volcanism of the Cretaceous time has resulted in one of the largest flood basalt province. The spectacular rise of the Himalaya and its role in the chemistry of global oceans and the Indian monsoon are too well known. The unique Thar Deserts, the incredible Kutch, the enormously lengthy east and west coastal regimes of peninsular India and the gigantically vast alluvial plains of Ganges-Brahmaputra are serene places of geoscientific concepts. The Indo Myanmar Ranges and collision with the Myanmar Plate and the Himalayas has been the prime destinations for the tectonic researchers. The delegates of the IGC will therefore have a first-hand exposure to textbook examples in almost all aspects of Geosciences.
The highlights of the congress are -12 Plenary Talks by eminent geoscientists from across the globe, 44 science themes, 266 symposia, special theme for national and international scientific organisations, more than 40 parallel discussion sessions, e-poster presentations,  State of the Art Convention Centre, 7000 sq. m  for Geoexpo area and 71 exciting field trips spread in India and neighbouring countries. The additional far-reaching Geohost Program, massive Geoexpo, and many other Geotourism attractions, the Congress promises to be a truly memorable experience.
A geological enthusiast/student/researcher in our country can avail the opportunity to participate in the biggest global geo scientific cluster. The congress under the aegis of International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) is scheduled to be held at India Expo Mart. Ltd. (IEML) Greater Noida, Delhi NCR. In order to provide a learning interface between budding geoscientists and the visiting peers, selected volunteers will be involved in the organisational activities that will expose them to first hand life time experiences. The 36th IGC will engage about 350 geoscientists as volunteers - they will be assigned multiple tasks / activities during the field trips (India) and the main congress (expected to have more than 5000 delegates). Persons who are good at communication and organizational skills with sound geoscience knowledge both in the field and relevant to the congress (preferably with multilingual knowledge) can apply for volunteers. The selected volunteers will work purely on temporary /contractual basis. The selection of the volunteers will be done through an Expression of Interest (EOI) which will be announced soon.  Such volunteers may be provided sufficient incentives (i.e. waiver of registration fee, per-diem, to and fro train fares) during training, workshop and main congress.
For the geoscientist fraternity, the GeoHost Support program of the 36th IGC is unprecedented, offering full support for travel, registration and local hospitality for 1000 delegates. It would provide financial support based exclusively on scientific merit. The GeoHost Support program is designed to enable young and financially disadvantaged geoscientists to attend the IGC.These may be awarded as either full or partial support. Applicants who can obtain partial funding from other sources will get preference. This support includes the Youth GeoHost Program, wherein one meritorious candidate from each of the IUGS-adhering countries would be offered fully funded GeoHost grant for attending the 36th IGC. Selection would be made in consultation with the IUGS-adhering countries. To encourage early career researchers and students, a Congress Theme Workshop Series (CTWS) is being organized during the 36th IGC for capacity-building. The tentative themes of the workshop are Geohazards, Climate Change, Carbon dioxide sequestration, Water resources and conservation, Sustainable development of geo-resources, Monsoon system, Energy resources, Applications of isotopes in ground water research, Coastal zone management and Geostatistics.
The congress will be a roller-coaster ride for those young enthusiasts, students, researchers, professionals who are directly or indirectly based on geology. As per the bid presented at the 34th IGC, the GeoHost program of the 36th IGC would be made available to every active scientist who has an abstract that is accepted for presentation during the congress. So the concerned fraternity of geology students and workers should optimise this chance to scientifically activate themselves. The congress even has the platform for the private firms, companies and other NGO’s to hold business meets during the congress and tie up their own start up programmes. Updates, brochures, happenings and much more details of each facet of the 36th IGC is available at www.36igc.org.

Tourism and its new insights (GEOTOURISM) relevance step in Manipur

Tourism being a global industry with its costumers on the exponential increase since 2010, each country has targeted this sector for gaining economic mileage. In the context India with its varied physiography, cultural heritage, historical and ancient monuments has been emerging as international tourist hotspot. The national government has also focused on the sector since the beginning of the 21st century with the formulation of National Tourism Policy (NTP) in 2002. Manipur too followed the national path and tourism can now be viewed as an industrial investment sector. However the enigma still hovers in bringing the tourism sector of the state to global arena and henceforth new perspective needs to be sort out. In the context the whole spectrum of Niche tourism (Agritourism, Birth tourism, Culinary tourism, Cultural tourism, Dark tourism, Eco tourism, Extreme tourism, Geotourism, Heritage tourism, Medical tourism, Movie tourism, Nautical tourism, Pop-culture tourism, Religious tourism, Slum tourism, Sports tourism, Textile tourism, Virtual tourism, War tourism, Wellness tourism, Wildlife tourism) though is not suitable in our societal and cultural set up, few of them will be need of the hour.

Amongst these GEOTOURISM can be brought to public domain for assessing the economic potential. Geotourism is one of the newest concepts within the field of tourism, and primarily focuses on promoting geological and geomorphological features in landscapes as tourist attractions. This new niche market segment within tourism is based on the conservation of geoheritage and geodiversity through appropriate sustainability measures and management. It begins with an understanding of the abiotic (non-living) environment, to build greater awareness of the biotic (living) environment of plants and animals as well as the Cultural environment of people, past and present. It is argued that geotourism offers a new form of sustainable tourism which is more holistic than previous niche forms of tourism.

Since the reincarnation of Manipur Tourism Festival as the Sangai Festival in 2010, if enquired about tourism to all, the Manipuri Diaspora and general people limit their perception to Sangai Festival, Sendra-Loktak Lake, KLNP, Moreh, Pineapple Festival, INA, Dzuko Valley, Kangla Fort, etc.... etc. The so called system of tourism in Sangai Festival in our state attracts mostly the local enthusiasts that too almost entirely the youths who are dependent to their parents. It’s is evident from the fact that the influx of outside tourists (both national and international) during the Sangai Festivals is very meagre. It’s contradictory to the NTP: 2002 and Manipur Tourism Policy (MTP), 2014 and the big enigma of harnessing economy from tourism still looms doom. Here lies to cater few changes in the mindset of policy makers, stake holders that should proportionately raised the influx of outside tourist in Manipur.

One basic principle of the NTP: 2002 focuses on the emergence of a new young class of tourists; loving for adventure, distant destination in hills, caves and forests. These tourists don’t need 5 star accommodation, luxurious transport but only simple, neat and clean place to stay and down to earth hosts and guides. This can be fulfilled with Guest Tourism. Such youths are now looking towards the north-eastern states. To cite the best examples, trek to Dzuko Valley, Shirui Hills are more fascinating than those of Kangla, Loktak Lake and the tourists even consider a lifetime achievement for these treks. The income to expenditure ratio in such sites are very high as only a good guide, comfortable and cosy guest houses——even guest huts will suffice. In the present scenario, people prefer to stay in tents. Singcha, Khayang, Phangrei, Kwatha, Phungyar, Tharon, Narum, Chattrik, Kwatha other than the known Dzuko valley and Shirui peak are potential guest tourism destinations in the border region of Manipur.

Even then Guest Tourism might attract a few people only. However if we elevate these places to GEOTOURISM spots, a new dimensional scope of treasure hunt/ natural resource assessment will come up. Linking these places with geology, the state has been endowed with very rare geological phenomena viz. occurrences of OPHIOLITES, PLATE TECTONIC boundary, etc. The state govt. and concern department can put proposal for scientific study in such areas of geologically significant features. The 36th International Geological Congress will be hosted by India in 2020 and the global community of geoscientists are on the discovery mode. It is right time to highlight these spots as GEOTOURISM spots which is synchronous with foreign funding for natural mineral resource assessment of the state as well. A testament to the rapid growth of geotourism worldwide is the expansion of membership of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network, from 20 Geoparks when it was founded in 2004 to 147 till April, 2019. Concurrent with the growth of geotourism, there has been an explosion in the number of scientific publications on issues related to the subject over the past few years. To date, the major focus of these publications has been on geotourism as an economic driver with respect to rural development.

Geotourism is, however, a broad concept which encompasses many aspects of a range of tourism activities, such as transport, accommodation, destination amenities, recreation, planning, and management. Considering the inability of the state to build up world class infrastructure in tourism sector, the grooming of the agile scientific human resource would be multi-faceted approach once the GEOTOURISM is on the upfront. One may look for tourism as income generation in the present context, who knows it may be a game changer turning Manipur into global natural resource market for gold, precious stones, Rare Earth Elements (REEs) and base metals, Chromium, Nickel and Platinum in the decades to come. Hence let’s not hesitate to promote GEOTOURISM in Manipur.