While the trend is global, Asia was found to be the most-affected continent where 75% of landslides occurred
New Delhi: Landslides triggered by human activities are on the rise around the world and India is among the most-affected countries, accounting for at least 28% of such events over last 12 years, according to a study published on Friday.
The study conducted by researchers at UK’s Sheffield University was published in the European Geosciences Union journal, Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences. Researchers compiled data on over 4,800 fatal landslides which occurred from 2004 to 2016, leaving out those caused by earthquakes.
More than 56,000 people were killed by landslides around the world during the period, a majority of which involved a single slope, according to the study based on the Global Fatal Landslide Database (GFLD). At least 700 of these fatal landslides were caused by construction works, illegal mining and unregulated hill-cutting.
While the trend is global, Asia was found to be the most-affected continent where 75% of landslides occurred, with a substantial number reported along the Himalayan Arc.
“All countries in the top 10 for fatal landslides triggered by human activity are located in Asia. India accounts for 20% of these incidents," said lead author Melanie Froude.
The research said human-triggered fatal landslides are increasing at the highest rate in India, where 28% construction-triggered landslide events occurred during the period, followed by China (9%), Pakistan (6%), the Philippines (5%), Nepal (5%) and Malaysia (5%).
“We were aware that humans are placing increasing pressure on their local environment, but it was surprising to find clear trends within the database that fatal landslides triggered by construction, illegal hill-cutting and illegal mining were increasing globally during the period," said Froude.
Analysis also revealed that many events occurred in mines or quarries.
Landslides have caused massive damage of life and property during extremely heavy rain across India, most recently in Kerala. The Kedarnath landslide in Uttarakhand in June 2013, caused by flash floods that resulted in over 5,000 deaths, was identified as the most tragic such disaster.
In the aftermath of the Kerala floods, noted environmentalist V.S. Vijayan also pointed to the increasing number of landslides. “Kerala had battled floods in 1924, but the landslides were not as disastrous as witnessed during this time. These are ecological consequences of development done at the cost of environment," he said.
According to the study, landslide occurrence peaks during the northern hemisphere summer, when cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons are more frequent and the monsoon season brings heavy rain to parts of Asia. Fatal landslides were found to be more common in settlements, along roads and at sites rich in precious resources.
In the Himalayan mountain region, especially in Nepal and India, many of the fatal landslides triggered by construction occurred on road building sites in rural areas. Landslides triggered by hill-cutting are a problem in rural areas, where many people illegally collect material from hill-slopes to build homes.