When human activities lead to landslides

Overpopulation is not a term unknown to us, and so is deforestation and over-development. But what happens when all of this comes together? The result is often disastrous. One such result of human development is landslide. Landslide can be defined as disintegration or sliding down of debris, a chunk of mountain, cliff or any other earth’s surface. Ages ago, landslides were a completely natural phenomenon, happening due to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, erosion of the land or heavy rainfall. But now, more than these natural factors, human beings are responsible for landslides.


People don’t think much about landslides, especially those who live on the plains. But for people residing in the hilly areas, this is a constant danger and imminent terror that they may have to face any day. Landslides are yet another example of how human beings are ruining the environment and stepping on something that is not rightfully theirs. In the process they end up hurting not only the planet but themselves as well. Landslides are dangerous phenomenon that can bring death to an entire town of people in just a few minutes. An entire chunk of mountain comes crashing down, and so does everything on it.

So what causes the mountains to get unstable? Here are some human factors related to landslides-

  • Overuse of land is probably the most common reason for landslide nowadays. Human beings are cutting and using land to make roads, bridges, dams and canals without even thinking of how the land is getting eroded because of this. Everyday new roads are being built to suit human requirements. In Nepal, landslides are a common phenomenon, the main reason being these human constructions. Nepal faces an average of seventy five landslides each year. This can put tremendous pressure on a country’s economy.
  • Overpopulation is a significant cause for landslides. Earlier this was not an issue, since people did not settle much in the hills. Hills were once scantily populated but with the rising population levels, people are now settling on the hills in huge numbers. As more and more people start living on hills, it puts pressure on the land.l2
  • Deforestation is somewhat related to overpopulation. As humans start clearing forests and lands to settle down, the soil becomes weaker and more vulnerable to flood and rain. This can cause a landslide. But sometimes deforestation also happens when trees are cut down for activities like timber harvesting. The roots of the trees actually grip the soil and hold it together. When trees are no longer there, the soil automatically becomes weak.
  • Mining has a lot of serious effects on the environment and one such is a landslide. Mining requires man to excavate and dig up land in search of minerals or fossil fuels. This makes a huge hole in the land, most of which remains unfilled. The blasting that takes place during mining can seriously affect the land by causing vibrations. This weakens the land considerably and later leads to landslides.
  • Water leakage has often been linked with landslides. Whereas rainfall is a natural incidence, leaking from pipes or sewage is not. The water gets absorbed in the land and makes it heavier. When soil gets heavier, it can crash down.
  • Traffic vibrations can lead to imbalance in the land and make it slide down.
  • A very widespread human activity is excavation. This is done before any construction can begin or due to archaeological purposes. Whatever the reason, excavating a land displaces the rocks. Also, the land is dug up quite deep. Inevitably, this leads to the weakening of the land and ultimately a landslide.l3
  • The final cause on the list is called slope overloading. Slope overloading is a dangerous phenomenon caused by human dumping of waste, agricultural activities and constructions. When waste is dumped year after year, it piles up to create slope overloading. Agricultural terraces also create uneven slopes. These circumstances often lead to landslides.

We have more or less discussed all the human activities which cause landslides. The effects that landslides have on the environment can be devastating. When a huge chunk of the mountain falls down, vegetation, flora and fauna can be destroyed in the process. When the vegetation or forest cover is destroyed, the wildlife’s natural habitat is ruined in the process. The topography of the soil is also hugely distorted. Human settlements can also be destroyed when landslides happen.

Human life is in danger if these keep on happening. On top of that, countries have to go through severe financial crisis to bear the losses suffered during landslides. So countries have come up with several landslide mitigation procedures to prevent it from happening. This mainly involves strengthening the land with the help of an anchor. Lowering the groundwater level is sometimes practiced as a part of mitigation. If all these don’t work, there is always the option of changing the geometry of the land. The overloading of the slopes can be reduced by taking necessary steps. This may take a lot of effort on the part of the country and its citizens, but if carried out can cause fewer landslides in the future.




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