TODAY -

The Marangching landslide, could it be a wake-up call ?

S K Singh *

 The scene of devastation after a catastrophic landslide struck at Tupul in Noney district :: June 30th 2022
The scene of devastation after a catastrophic landslide struck at Marangching on June 30th 2022 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam



Land slide is a natural phenomenon caused mostly due to natural factors like, heavy rains, worst still incessant, floods, earthquakes etc. Of course, more prone areas exist across the universe for such devastations.

In India among the worst, we may recall the Kedarnath Land slide in Uttarkhand in 2013 on June 16. Floods were reportedly the principal cause in this mountainous region. Over 5700 persons lost their lives, a massive 4200 villages were affected by floods and post-flood landslides.

The June 30 early morning land slide in Noney district, Makhuam village at the railway construction site, is reckoned as the worst ever land slide till date, in the state. This is the first time a massive landslide of immense intensity and scale ever occurred in the hills of Manipur.

Yes, landslides happened from time to time. According to records available, the state had so far witnessed 6 major land slides in 2018, 3 in 2017, one in 2015 and 4 in 2010, according to the Union Environment Ministry. There were however no records of human casualty nor of such intensity and dimension.

In the intervening night of June 29 and 30 at the Tupul railway construction site, in Makhuam Village, Noney district of Manipur, incessant rain, like never before, lashed this hill range. Water streams reportedly caused outburst of soft land mass from the hill sides early on.

The villagers were panic-stricken and yet consoled themselves as these could be because of the continuous rain received this time around during the last few days and would pass by. They took it as near normal because of the incessant brain for the last week or so.

Little did the villagers suspect that something more virulent was in store for this tiny hill village in the days to follow. And the impossible catastrophe happened in the intervening night of June 29 and 30, a huge landslide never seen or heard ever before struck the massive hill side, in the railway construction site at Makhuam village.

The sliding landmass along the slops hit hard the structures, the huts around, along with whatever was on its way as it gorged down the passage to fall into the Isai/Isei river down below.

The land slide carried along the entire camp of 17 Territorial Army stationed there for protection of the railway office and structures of NF Railway, Private Construction Co. Venkata Sai Construction, and some private structures of the village along the way. This incident is counted as the worst ever natural disaster to hit the state.

So far 18 persons were saved, though 61 persons were dead. 56 bodies had been retrieved, bodies of 4 villagers and one TA personnel still missing. Retrieving 56 bodies from amidst the rubbles over a long period of 20 days is itself a gigantic feat, the task of searching for bodies from amidst the debris is no mean a task by any standard.

The entire team of search though officially called off, for three days now, the search for the-would be forgotten souls stirred the conscience of some. They kept looking for, hoping for and the longing bore results on 23 July.

The railways personnel in their excavating works, at the least for their buried machineries and construction materials, reportedly did stumble upon body parts of hand, head and hairs. The villagers claim these parts were of one Ch. Gondaimei (28) wife of (L) K. Gondaimei and their minor son Jianthailiu Gondaimei. These are being deposited at JNIMS mosque and would remain there until the body of the husband still missing is recovered. The trio’s last rites would be performed shortly according to customary laws at their village.

In the midst of this unprecedented catastrophe, a natural question comes to the fore if the authorities had not taken adequate care and precaution to assess the suitability or otherwise of the region for such projects like railway line construction.

The state had on record faced six major landslides in 2018 alone. This was preceded by similar landslides in 2017, 2015, 2010. According to the Union Environment Ministry, landslides in the hilly regions of Manipur which are categorized as ‘eco sensitive hilly regions’, are mostly triggered by ‘human intervention’.

Shri Mahesh Sharma, the Minister of State for environment had on August 6, 2018, on record said in the Rajya Sabha, “Studies have indicated that these landslides are mostly anthropogenically induced and are caused as a result of modifications of slops for construction, widening of road, quarrying for the construction materials, fragile lithology, complex geological structures and heavy rainfall.”

Could therefore, if it was a case of lapse on the part of the Railways and the GOI? They had not taken the pains of going into the environmental and geological issues before undertaking the ambitious project aimed at connecting the landlocked region of the NER with the SEA countries as part of their Act East Policy?

Later on, when massive damage had been caused, worst still, loss of human lives, 61 persons having been dead, the story of ‘pact’ signed between NFR, Noney district administration, Makhuam Village Authority at the CM’s office sounds unpalatable. Railways bearing educational expenses of the 3 orphaned children, bearing of funeral expenses, providing suitable jobs to the survivor are secondary.

Tragically, the element of sufficient precaution, an exhaustive assessment of the complex geological structures and massive consultation with the appropriate authorities had been given a slip.

Can the authorities now concede that this Makhuam Land Slide be a ‘Wake Up Call’ for all those who matter?


* S K Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be reached at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on July 27 2022.



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