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8th January 2024 (10 Topics)

IIT Delhi team makes first hi-res landslide risk map for India

Context

The map data is available for free; the researchers have also created an online portal for people to explore the map.

Background

  • In late 2023, devastating floods and landslides wreaked havoc in multiple states in North India, claiming hundreds of lives.
  • The absence of a national landslide susceptibility map prompted Manabendra Saharia, an assistant professor at IIT Delhi, to lead an initiative to develop one using the latest techniques.

Uniqueness of Landslide Challenges in India

  • Data Challenges: Unlike floods, landslides in India are more localized and affect only about 1-2% of the country. Tracking and studying them is difficult due to the scarcity of high-quality data.

The Research Approach

  • Data Collection: Graduate students collected data on nearly 1.5 lakh landslide events from sources including the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and other global databases.
  • Factors Considered: Sixteen landslide conditioning factors were identified, including soil cover, tree density, and proximity to roads or mountains.

Technology and Machine Learning

  • Utilizing Latest Techniques: The research aimed to not only use available data but also incorporate state-of-the-art techniques.
  • Ensemble Machine Learning: Using ensemble machine learning methods, the researchers analyzed 150,000 data points for known landslide events and the 16 identified factors.

Developing the National Landslide Susceptibility Map

  • Resolution and Coverage: The resulting high-resolution map, named the 'Indian Landslide Susceptibility Map,' covered the entire country with a resolution of 100 m, estimating susceptibility for each 100 sq. m parcel.

Identifying High-Risk Areas

  • Known and Unknown Susceptibility: The map confirmed known high-risk regions like the Himalayan foothills but also revealed previously unknown vulnerable areas, such as parts of the Eastern Ghats.
  • Policy Implications: The map is expected to assist policymakers in assessing vulnerability and formulating effective mitigation measures.

Future Initiatives

  • Early Warning System: Building on the map, the researchers aim to develop a 'Landslide Early Warning System' for India.
  • Infrastructure Vulnerability Map: In addition to the landslide map, efforts are underway to create an infrastructure vulnerability map depicting areas susceptible to landslides.

Public Accessibility

  • Online Availability: The map is available online for public access, providing a user-friendly interface for exploring regions of interest.
  • Community Engagement: Encouraging people to utilize the data, the researchers emphasize the map's accessibility without requiring technical knowledge.

Way Forward:

  • The creation of India's first national landslide susceptibility map represents a significant leap in understanding and addressing the unique challenges posed by landslides.
  • With applications ranging from early warning systems to infrastructure planning, the map is poised to play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of landslides across the country.

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