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Protecting lives: Odisha Government and Amrita University collaborate for Landslide Early Warning System 

Amrita's Landslide Early Warning System has garnered international recognition for outstanding disaster risk management interventions.

Key Points

  • Landslides, especially during cyclones, pose a severe threat to life and livelihoods in Odisha’s Gajapati District. The region is predominantly inhabited by Tribal Peoples reliant on agriculture. 
  • The Odisha government and Amrita are collaborating to implement the University’s Landslide Early Warning System to provide advanced alerts and mitigate future disasters. It has been in operation in Kerala since 2009 and Sikkim since 2015. 
  • Dr Maneesha V Ramesh and Dr Sudesh K Wadhawan are leading efforts to implement the system, emphasising proactive community engagement, training, and comprehensive risk assessment.  

Landslides pose a significant threat to life and livelihoods in Odisha’s Gajapati District, which is situated on the border with Andhra Pradesh. With a population of more than 600,000, the majority are Tribal Peoples and the economy relies upon agriculture. 

In a strategic move to mitigate the impact of landslides, especially during cyclones, the Odisha government and Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham (Amrita University) are gearing up to establish a user-friendly Landslide Early Warning System there. The initiative aims to provide advanced information, with an emphasis on landslides caused by disturbances in the natural stability of a slope. 

One of the worst disasters in recent years was Cyclone Titli, which triggered massive landslides in October 2018. The severe storm destroyed 20 villages, claimed at least 48 lives, and displaced around 9,100 families. 

In order to prepare the community for future disasters, the need of the hour is a participatory and sustainable approach. The Landslide Early Warning System is able to provide advanced information, ensuring timely alerts and necessary precautions to safeguard the lives and property of the residents.   

Dr Maneesha V Ramesh, Provost for Strategic Initiatives, Research & Innovation, and Director, Amrita Center for Wireless Networks and Applications, along with the Center’s geoscience consultant and adjunct faculty, Dr Sudesh K Wadhawan, met with state Chief Administrative Secretary Shri Pradeep Kumar Jena to discuss how to implement the Landslide Early Warning System. 

Dr Wadhawan emphasised the importance of proactive measures in addressing risks so people are ready to respond when there is threat of landslides. This includes engaging the community in training for emergency prepararedness, especially evacuation measures to reach safer ground.   

The talks, which involved officers from the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA) and other officials, focused on providing the essential knowledge and skills required for the successful execution of the system. 

A team of experts from Amrita University, led by Dr Ramesh, also conducted a comprehensive study and surveyed Gajapati’s most vulnerable areas for landslides, including Baraghara and Madha in Rayagada block of the district. They assessed various factors such as topography, landscape pattern, soil textures, vegetation, slope percentage, rainfall trends, rock types, agriculture patterns, and the location of water bodies. 

The collaboration between the Govt of Odisha and Amrita University signifies a joint effort towards disaster preparedness and response. As discussions continue, the partnership seeks to bring the Landslide Early Warning System to fruition, setting a benchmark for proactive measures in disaster-prone regions.  

In 2009, the University successfully deployed the world’s first wireless sensor network system which was later upgraded to the AI integrated Internet of Things (IoT) system for detection and early warning of landslides in Munnar, Kerala. The system’s success has been evident through advanced warnings issued in crucial years, serving as a lifeline during torrential rains.   

In 2015 at the request of the Govt of India, Amrita has also deployed the Landslide Early Warning System in Sikkim, Northeast Himalayas which is a highly geologically active region. The Sikkim IoT system, co-funded by India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences, is deployed in partnership with the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority. 

The applied research of the Landslide Early Warning System has significant global value for all landslide-prone areas, as it is designed to be adaptable depending upon a region’s needs. With this broad vision, the system was directly initiated by Amma as Amrita University’s Chancellor in order to develop low-cost technologies for wide-area monitoring of landslides and save human lives.  

Amrita has received several significant recognitions for this work, including the title of World Centre for Excellence (WCoE) on Landslide Risk Reduction by the International Programme on Landslides (IPL) for three times in a row. The WCoE has also won the prestigious IPL-KLC Award for Success, which acknowledges commendable projects within IPL, evaluated through an assessment of activities conducted over the past three years at each World Landslide Forum. The University also won the 2023 Averted Disaster Awards for outstanding Disaster Risk Management (DRM) intervention.  

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