Background

Himalaya is the youngest and highest mountain range on Earth, which extends over a length of about 2400 km. Whilst it is one of the most active and fragile mountain chains in the world, it is home to millions of people living in northern India, northern Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and parts of other Asian nations. Owing to the rugged topography, the complex geological structures, the fragile soil cover, the high intensity monsoon rainfall, the large temperature variations, and the occurrence of very large magnitude earthquake events, natural phenomena such as landslides, debris flows, soil erosion, and other mass wasting processes are very frequent in this region, which in fact are the primary cause of environmental degradation in the region.

Every year, especially during the summer monsoon period, landslide and related natural disaster events claim many lives and destroy property, infrastructure, and the environment of the Himalayas. The economic loss in landslide damage alone in this region is estimated at $1 billion per year. Li (1990) estimated that the loss of life due to landslides and related earth flow phenomena in the Himalayan Region constitutes about 30% of the world's total landslide-related damage value. The Durham Landslide Fatality Database suggests that over 1,000 people were killed in landslide events in the Himalayas in 2007 alone, which represents almost 35% of the global total. Furthermore, Petley et al. (2006) estimated that over 20,000 people were killed by landslides during the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake in Pakistan and India. Sadly, the people of the Himalayas are all too familiar with landslide hazards. These people generally live in widely-spread settlements in the fragile Himalayan terrains, and suffer more from the landslides than any other types of natural disaster.  A large number of human  settlements  on  the  Himalayas  are  situated  either  on  old  landslide  masses  or  in landslide-prone areas. As a result, a great number of people are affected by large- and small- scale landslides throughout the Himalayas, especially during rainy times.  For instance, in 1988, a huge landslide at Darbang, about 200 km west of Kathmandu in Nepal, killed 109 people and temporarily blocked Myagdi River. About 62 years before this incident, the same landslide had buried Darbang area killing about 500 people. Likewise, one of the worst landslide tragedies took place at Malpa Uttarkhand, India on 11 and 17 August 1998 resulting in death of 380 people when massive landslides washed away the entire village (Note: this figure includes 60 tourists bound for Lake Mansarovar in Tibet).  Apart from such catastrophic landslides, many small-scale slope failures go unreported, especially when they occur in remote areas of the Himalaya. Furthermore, the loss of productive lands in the hills due to landslides and related mass erosion phenomena during every rainy season, which are seldom reported unless they involve the loss of life, is so great that a quantified economic loss would probably be in the same range as for a one-off natural disaster. National infrastructures like roads, bridges, dams, hydropower stations, canals, buildings are also repeatedly damaged by landslides in this region.

A rapid rise in construction of national infrastructures including roads, hydropower stations and dams, etc. with inadequate or little consideration for the natural hazards has considerably contributed to triggering of landslides in the mountains of the Himalayas. Similarly, due to a rapid increase in population over the Himalayan hills in the last three decades, the trend of settling in comparatively hazardous areas is increasing. Thus, the rising levels of risk from the landslides triggered by hydro-meteorological variability invariably entail considerable loss of life and property losses and inflict significant damage on the vital economic system of the Himalayan nations. A further key issue is the deterioration of the ecological balance and environment of the Himalayas, most notably through excessive deforestation, soil erosion and river sedimentation. This is likely to be exacerbated by global warming, which is likely to cause increased levels of extreme climatic events. Warming is also putting many Himalayan glacial lakes in great danger of bursting, which may lead to complete destruction of downstream human settlements and the habitat to world’s rare flora and fauna. Unfortunately, however, despite the rapid climatic, geomorphological, environmental and ecological changes taking place in the Himalayas, all of which can be linked to landslide occurrences, systematic research on landslide processes and environmental changes in the Himalayas is at best in its infancy. Although some efforts have been made by the professionals and researchers from government agencies in, for example, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bhutan as well as from nongovernmental organizations, international agencies, and academic institutions, the areas of investigation, the methodologies adopted, and the classification criteria considered in the study differ considerably. Furthermore, there is a serious lack of knowledge transfer and research output dissemination  among  the  researchers.  Partly, this  is  because  there  are  very  few  scientific gatherings among the geoscientists, environmentalists, and engineers who are involved in Himalayan landslide and environmental research. To deal with all these issues in the Himalayan Region and to foster investigations, collaborations, discussions, and integration among the stakeholders in Himalayan landslide and environmental issues, a common forum of geoscientists, environmentalists, engineers, and stakeholders needs to be established immediately. So, all this in background, a new scientific society has been established in the name of ‘Himalayan Landslides Society’, abbreviated as ‘HiLS’.

Conceptualization of HiLS

Concept of HiLS was originated in 2007 and as a core team of HiLS, Prof. Bishal Nath Upreti, Tribhuvan University, Nepal, Prof. Ryuichi Yatabe, Ehime University, Japan, Dr. Netra Prakash Bhandary, Ehime University, Japan and Dr. Ranjan Kumar Dahal, Tribhuvan University, Nepal have invited many landslide scientists around the world to participate in conceptualization of HiLS. The team got overwhelming responses in the support of HiLS establishment and many professors, geo-scientists and engineers showed their interest to be a part of HiLS. HiLS is proud to list following name of professors, geo-scientists and engineers around the world as Core Conceptualization Team of HiLS.  

Core Conceptualization Team

  1. Prof. Kyoji SASSA, ICL,Japan
  2. Prof. M. Qasim Jan, Quaid-AzamUniversity, Islamabad, Pakistan.
  3. Prof. A. K. Pachauri, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee 247667 India
  4. Prof. Simon Loew, Director Institute of Geology, ETH Zurich, CH-8093 Switzerland
  5. Prof. Harutaka SAKAI, Department of Geology and Mineralogy, Division of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan
  6. Prof. Vishnu Dangol,Tribhvuan University, Nepal
  7. Prof. Gyo-Won Kim, Department of Geology,Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Korea
  8. Prof. Deepak Bhattarai, Nepal Engineering College, Chagunarayan, Nepal
  9. Prof. John Hutchinson, USA
  10. Prof. Narendra Raj Khanal, Central Department of Geography,Tribhuvan University
  11. Dr. Binod Tiwari, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science, California State University, Fullerton, USA
  12. Mr. Pradeep Mool, ICIMOD, Nepal
  13. Prof. David Petley, Duram University, UK
  14. Prof. Stéphane SCHWARTZ, LGIT laboratory inGrenoble, France
  15. Prof C.J. van Westen, International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), Enschede, The Netherlands
  16. Dr. Gareth Hearn, Scott Wilson, UK
  17. Prof Andrew Malone, Hong Kong University
  18. Mr. Krishna P. Kaphle, Senior Geologist, Kathmandu, Nepal,
  19. Prof. Faquan Wu,Institute of Geologyand Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  20. Prof. Hideaki Marui, Niigata University, Japan
  21. Prof. Joachim Rohn, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
  22. Dr. H. Inagaki, Kankyo Chishitsu Co. Ltd., Japan
  23. Dr. Beth Pratt-Sitaula, Central Washington University, USA
  24. Mr. Padma Khadka, Institute of Engineering,Tribhuvan University, Nepal
  25. Prof. Jib Raj Pokharel, Institute of Engineering,Tribhuvan University, Nepal
  26. Prof. Masaru Yoshida, Gondwana Institute for Geology and Environment, Hashimoto, JAPAN
  27. Prof. Oldrich Hungr, Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, Canada
  28. Dr. Madhu Sudan Acharya, Department of Roads, Nepal
  29. Dr. Sukesh Kumar Bartarya, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, India
  30. Mr. Lila Nath Rimal, Department of Mines and Geology, Kathmandu, Nepal
  31. Dr W A Mitchell, Geography Department, University College, Durham University
  32. Dr. John Howell, Living Resources Limited, Lukesland House, United Kingdom
  33. Prof. Josef Stemberk,Institute of Rock Structure and Mechanics, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Czech Republic
  34. Prof. Megh Raj Dhital, Central Department of Geology,Tribhvuan University
  35. Prof. Shuichi Hasegawa, Faculty of Engineering, Kagawa University, Japan

Organization

Although the establishment process was initiated in 2008, HiLS has been formally registered with the Government of Nepal on August 15, 2011 under the Non-profit Company Act. The registration process was delayed due to lack of rules and regulations in Nepal for a professional regional organization. For the day-to-day activities of the society, an ad-hoc committee has been formed, and the following seven founder members of HiLS are now in the Ad hoc Committee.

Ad hoc Executive Committee of HiLS 

President

Hari Kirshna Shrestha, Prof. Dr. Engineering

Vice President

Dinesh Pathak, Dr. of Science (MSc. Geology)

(Resigned on 3/9/2013)

Secretary

Netra Prakash Bhandary, Dr. Engineering

Joint Secretary

Kishor Kumar Bhattarai, Dr. Engineering

Treasurer

Ranjan Kumar Dahal, Dr. Engineering (MSc. Geology)

Members

Jishnu Kumar Subedi, Dr. Engineering

Pralhad Baniya, MSc. Geology

Office Executive

Manita Timilsina,  Dr. Engineering

Objectives 

Establishment of a scientific society like HiLS requires a set of strategic goals, and global-to-local actions must be identified to substantially reduce the effects of landslide disasters and environmental changes on life and livelihood of people in the Himalayas over the upcoming decades. To set the goals and to promote appropriate global-to-local actions, HiLS will bring all researchers in the field of landslides and environment in the Himalayas into a single room, and will coordinate landslide and environmental research activities in the Himalayas from a global perspective in order to improve the quality of people's life in the Himalayas. HiLS is intended to facilitate and advocate discussions on the major issues of landslide and environmental research, which must be addressed to design effective methods for landslide disaster reduction and environmental protection in the Himalayan Region. With these issues in focus, the main aims and objectives of HiLS are as follows.

  • To establish a mechanism for the effective and efficient sharing of knowledge, experience and resources about landslide hazard, risk, disaster and environmental deterioration in the Himalayan Region.
  • To determine the nature of existing technical and institutional gap/s and to establish a means to enhance national and regional capacities to monitor and respond to the landslide disasters and environmental degradation.
  • To develop improved mechanisms for cooperation, networking and coordination of actions among different institutions at the global level for landslide and environmental research in the Himalayas.
  • To collect and disseminate possible practices for the study of landslides and the environment at the local and regional scale.
  • To promote effective integration of landslide disaster reduction actions and environmental protection into development planning and policy of all countries in the Himalayan Region.
  • To  develop the  ability  to  effectively  monitor,  forecast,  mitigate  and  respond  to  landslide disasters and environmental changes at local, national, and regional levels.
  • To create a regional high quality, reliable and consistent landslide disaster database, providing a framework for promoting community risk assessment in local, national, and regional levels.
  • To promote and enhance institutional coping capacity at the national and regional levels, including solutions for formulating effective institutional capacity building programs, skills, and tools for landslide and environmental research.
  • To  substantially  reduce the  death  toll  from  landslides  and  adverse  environmental  effects, acknowledging  the  current  and  future  complex  socio-economic  setting  of  the  Himalayan Region.
  • To share and document information on good practice and lessons learned in the past landslide and environmental research and mitigation measures practiced in Europe, America, and East Asia.

Management 

The Geoscientists, environmentalists, civil engineers, and social scientists from all over the world involved in the Himalayan landslide and environmental research will be eligible to join HiLS, and will take the responsibility of running the society. The society will be directly managed and supervised by an executive body chaired by a senior researcher. Various groups of members will help the executive body in all aspects of research, publication, coordination, networking, and discussion forums as well as seminars and conferences. The elaborated management procedures and the statute will be prepared by an Ad hoc Committee of HiLS.

Various international development agencies will be requested/invited to provide funds for various programs undertaken by or with HiLS. A nominal fee from various types of members will also be collected for the official operation of the society.

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