The region around Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh has been witnessing a strange phenomenon as the ground has been giving way and collapsing, during the monsoons each year.

Delve Environment Tuesday, September 10, 2019 - 12:33

As Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh receives monsoon rains each year, villages nearby have been witnessing a strange phenomenon; in some isolated areas, massive sinkholes have appeared overnight.

The latest sinkhole has opened up in the ground close to the ST colony in Ippapenta village in Kadapa district, which is giving locals sleepless nights.

"After heavy rains lashed the region, the soil sank in and it kept sinking in further. We were worried about how deep it was and whether it has made its way to the village. We were confused. The officials come, take photographs, and leave, but don't tell us anything. They are not telling us about the severity of this and if we should vacate our village," says Mallam Kondaiah, a resident of the ST colony.

In 2015, the residents of Nayanoripalle were evacuated after a huge sinkhole appeared within the village, devouring a ground-level water tank and part of a school compound.

Close to four years on, residents say that the government is yet to make an alternate arrangement for water or a school. Cracks have also appeared on the houses here.

"In nature, a sinkhole is formed in areas which are limestone rich. Due to rainfall and precipitation, it dissolves the limestone (underground), producing a cavity. The ground water flow increases the cavity and if it can't sustain the overlying load, the soil falls in and produces a sinkhole," Dr Anand Pandey from the National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad tells TNM.

Meanwhile, the government says that it is considering the latest sinkhole as a calamity and added that an enquiry is ongoing.

Speaking to TNM, Kadapa Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO), A Malola, says, "When people are scared, we have an obligation to quell their fears. As soon as the (enquiry) report comes, we will all sit down and speak to the Collector. We will identify why this happens and if there are areas where it may happen, satisfy the doubts of locals, and take action accordingly."

While the government can study the sinkholes and mitigate the issue, there is no real solution, at least not right now. Precaution seems to be the only option.

Watch the video below.

Here's the full transcript of the video:

Chinakka hasn't slept for many days….

A massive sinkhole has opened up in the ground close to her home in Ippapenta village in Andhra Pradesh's Kadapa district.

And Chinakka and her neighbours are worried – what if the ground beneath them gives way while they’re asleep?

"We are scared. We have never seen anything like this. We have seen sinkholes in the past, around 2-3 years ago, but never like this; with the ground cracking and water gushing into the holes." 

As the region receives monsoon rains each year, the villages around Kadapa have been witnessing a strange phenomenon; in some isolated areas, massive sinkholes have appeared overnight.

At first sight, it’s difficult to explain how deep a sinkhole really is, but the ones that have appeared here behind the ST colony in Ippapenta are at least 30 to 40 feet deep, leaving the residents here, worried. 

After heavy rains lashed the region, the soil sank in and it kept sinking in further. We were worried about how deep it was and whether it has made its way to the village. We were confused. The officials come, take photographs, and leave, but don't tell us anything. They are not telling us about the severity of this and if we should vacate our village.

It is not the tale of Ippapenta alone. In 2015, the residents of Nayanoripalle were evacuated after a huge sinkhole appeared  here.  

There was a lot of rain. The sinkhole swallowed the water tank and also damaged a school. Many people had visited to see the hole, but nothing has changed for us.  

Cracks have also appeared on the houses here, and residents in both Ippapenta and Nayanoripalle are concerned. 

So what explains the sinkholes that appear here?  

In nature, a sinkhole is formed in areas which are limestone rich. Due to rainfall and precipitation, it dissolves the limestone (underground), producing a cavity. The groundwater flow increases the cavity and if it can't sustain the overlying load, the soil falls in and produces a sinkhole.

Dr Anand Pandey from the National Geophysical Research Institute was part of a team that had visited Nayanoripalle in 2015. He says that Kadapa's case is unique as they found vertical cavities.   

Usually sinkholes that occur naturally are conical in shape, but in Kadapa, what we saw was the sinkholes were vertical cylinders.

In the natural system (in Kadapa), we have vertical cavities which are 5-6 metres wide, which is because of the geological structure, which is formed over long periods of time. Humans have no capacity to stop or control it.

The government says it has taken stock of the situation and an enquiry is ongoing.

We are considering it a calamity. When people are scared, we have an obligation to quell their fears. As soon as the (enquiry) report comes, we will all sit down and speak to the Collector. We will identify why this happens and if there are areas where it may happen satisfy the doubts of locals, and take action accordingly.

While the government can study the sinkholes and mitigate the losses, there is no real solution, at least not right now. Precaution seems to be the only option.

Nature tells you in advance. It gives you hints. But once we know that the area is infested with sinkholes, now we know there is a problem. The moment we get a signal, we must take precautions.

Government officials come, see the spot, take photos and leave. But they are not telling us whether it will be a problem for us or not.

It has been more than 3 years. There is no school and no arrangement has been made for water. It is very difficult to get water in the village.   

In case they ask us to empty the colony, where should we go and live? Where should our families go? We are labourers, we don't have any land.