10 Jan 2023
10 Jan 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

More than one landslide per road kilometer – surveying and modelling mass movements along the Rishikesh-Joshimath (NH-7) highway, Uttarakhand, India

Jürgen Mey1, Ravi Kumar Guntu2, Alexander Plakias1, Igo Silva de Almeida1, and Wolfgang Schwanghart1 Jürgen Mey et al.
  • 1Department Institute of Environmental Science and Geography, University of Potsdam, Potsdam-Golm, 14476, Germany
  • 2Department of Hydrology, IIT Roorkee, Roorkee, 247667, India

Abstract. The rapidly expanding Himalayan road network connects rural mountainous regions. However, the fragility of the landscape and poor road construction practices lead to frequent mass movements along-side roads. In this study, we investigate fully or partially road-blocking landslides along the National Highway (NH-) 7 in Uttarakhand, India, between Rishikesh and Joshimath. Based on an inventory of > 300 landslides along the ~250 km long corridor following exceptionally high rainfall in October and September 2022, we identify the main controls on the spatial occurrence of mass-movement events. Our analysis and modelling approach conceptualizes landslides as network-attached spatial point pattern. We evaluate different gridded rainfall products and infer the controls on landslide occurrence using Bayesian analysis of an inhomogeneous Poisson process model. Our results reveal that slope, rainfall amounts, and lithology are the main environmental controls on landslide occurrence. The individual effects of aggregated lithozones is consistent with previous assessments of landslide susceptibilities of rock types in the Himalayas. Our model spatially predicts landslide occurrences and can be adapted for other rainfall scenarios, and thus has potential applications for efficiently allocating efforts for road maintenance. To this end, our results highlight the vulnerability of the Himalayan road network to landslides. Climate change and increasing exposure along this pilgrimage route will likely exacerbate landslide risk along the NH-7 in the future.

Jürgen Mey et al.

Status: open (until 21 Feb 2023)

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Jürgen Mey et al.


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Short summary
The current socioeconomic development in the Himalayan region leads to a rapid expansion of the road network and an increase in the exposure to landslides. Our study along the NH-7 demonstrates the scale of this challenge as we detect more than one partially or fully road-blocking landslide per road kilometer. We identify the main controlling variables, i.e. slope angle, rainfall amount and lithology. As our approach uses a minimum of data, it can be extended to more complicated road networks.