Days after being hit by extreme rains and landslides, the Wayanad district administration has decided to impose stringent regulations in quarrying and construction activities. A complete ban has also been imposed on quarries located in landslide prone areas in the district. This comes even as the Kerala government has received criticism for lifting the temporary ban it had imposed on quarrying between August 10 and 21.
The order issued by the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) on Wednesday places restrictions on construction, quarrying, mining and land development activities at landslide prone areas.
Wayanad was one of the northern Kerala districts which was severely affected by the extreme rains in early August. The district witnessed a total of 14 deaths owing to the rains and landslides. Wayanad saw 10 major landslides in August with Puthumala being the worst-hit in the district with 12 deaths and five persons still missing. In the 2018 floods, Wayanad had witnessed a total of 278 landslides and landslips.
‚ÄúAll these statistics indicate the vulnerability of the district to landslide disasters. The district is now paying the price for mindless development carried out in recent decades by destroying hills, forests, water bodies and wetlands. The disaster that took place in Puthumala is a road-sign to future. Rain triggered landslips are likely to increase in the coming years and hence it is absolutely essential to bring certain restrictions on the land use pattern especially in landslide prone areas in the district,‚ÄĚ the DDMA‚Äôs order states.
The temporary ‚Äėblanket ban‚Äô imposed by the Kerala government following the floods and landslides lasted for a mere 11 days, with experts calling it an eyewash.
While the DDMA‚Äôs order comes on the same day that the state government lifted its temporary ban on quarrying, Wayanad District Collector Ajayakumar AR tells TNM that this was not a kneejerk reaction to the government‚Äôs move.
‚ÄúThese restrictions were pre-planned. Right after the calamity, we had conducted meetings with various local self-government bodies and people‚Äôs representatives and amicably reached the decision to impose strict control on all the land development activities,‚ÄĚ said the Collector.
Complete ban on quarrying and mining in landslide prone areas
Acknowledging that quarrying has happened in landslide prone areas, the DDMA has now specifically ordered that a ban on mining or quarrying activities in landslide prone areas of the district.
‚ÄúIf any such quarrying or mining is happening at any landslide prone area, the Tahsildar shall get them closed after issuing notice within two weeks after giving them a reasonable opportunity of being heard,‚ÄĚ it states. The order also states that a final decision should be taken on the quarries working in landslide prone regions by September 22.
The quarries that are situated outside the limits of landslide hazard prone area should not be allowed to function if they lack proper permits and licenses. ‚ÄúThe documents obtained by quarrying units shall be mandatorily re-examined by the Geologist before September 20 to ensure that all the conditions in the permits are rigorously followed,‚ÄĚ states the order. If there happens to be discrepancies, such quarry units will not be allowed to operate hence forth.
Also, mechanised excavation of ordinary earth will no longer be permitted at any landslide prone area in the district.
No more commercial constructions in landslide prone regions
Taking into consideration the development needs of the community, the DDMA has classified the constructions in the district as Group A ‚Äď residential buildings, B ‚Äď educational and community buildings, C ‚Äď hospitals, D ‚Äď small industrial buildings and E ‚Äď all other types.
Under the landslide zonation map, 102.6 square kilometre area in the district is categorised as high hazard zonation and major part of this belongs to Vythiri and Mananthavady taluks.
As per the DDMA‚Äôs order, only residential buildings, educational and community buildings, hospitals and small industrial buildings will be allowed in landslide prone areas. However, the height of the buildings has been restricted 8 metres and 2 floor levels.
As per the order, commercial establishments including hotels and tourist homes will not be allowed to be constructed in landslide prone regions. It has also been decided that if existing establishments do not comply with the specified rules of Kerala Panchayat Building Rules, 2011 or of Kerala Municipal Building Rules 1999, it will be issued notice to close down.
No construction or land development will be done disturbing the natural flow of any water course except the ones which are meant for disaster management operations and those which are permitted under the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation Act, 2003, it states.
The district administration has also formed a committee to assess the condition of all the existing buildings ‚Äď with more than 200 sq meter or with more than five floors or within 500 meter radial distance from any of the building collapse cases reported during the last five years ‚Äď situated in landslide or flood prone areas. The committee headed by the additional district magistrate will be required to submit a report concerning the same within three months.