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Landslides UPSC NOTE

 What causes landslides?

  • Landslides happen when the pull from gravity exceeds the strength of the geomaterial forming the slope of a hill or mountain

    • Geomaterials can be as varied as rocks, sand, silt and clays.

  • Then, part of this slope starts sliding downhill

  • Most natural landslides are triggered by earthquakes or rainfall, or a combination of both.

  • Earthquakes shake the ground, stress it and weaken it over time

  • Rainwater can seep through the ground and soak it – the ground is often porous like a sponge – and add weight to the slope. 

  • Another adverse effect of water is erosion: the constant action of waves undercuts coastal slopes, causing them to fail

  • Humans can (and do) cause landslides in several ways, too. 

  • For example, deforestation has a negative impact on slope stability, as tree roots naturally reinforce the ground and drain water out. 

  • Also, mine blasts produce small earthquake-like ground vibrations that shake slopes nearby.

Why can’t we predict landslides?

  • It’s very difficult to predict and mitigate landslide risk effectively. 

  • Under our feet, geomaterials may include multiple, entangled layers of various kinds of rocks and particulate materials, such as sand, silt and clays

  • Their strength varies from a factor of one to 1,000, and their spatial distribution dictates where the slope is likely to fail.

  • To accurately assess the stability of the slope, a three-dimensional mapping of these materials and their strengths is needed

  • No sensor can provide this information, so geologists and geotechnical engineers must deal with partial information obtained at a few selected locations and extrapolate this data to the rest of the slope.

  • The weakest link of the chain – such as an existing fracture in a rock mass – is easily missed

  • This is an inevitable source of uncertainty when trying to predict how much material might slip.

  • We do know that the larger the volume of a landslide, the farther its runout distance

  • But it’s hard to gauge the exact size of a landslide, making predictions of runout distances and safe zones uncertain.

  • Mechanical analysis enables us to estimate the vulnerability of a slope in a particular scenario, including earthquake magnitude and distribution of groundwater

  • But predicting if and when these triggers will happen is a difficult task.

  • Unfortunately, all the money in the world can’t buy accurate landslide predictions – especially in remote parts of the world.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Landslides UPSC NOTE
Landslides UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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