Kadugannawa landslide: Man-made Disaster or Nature’s Wrath?

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage in Kadugannawa | Published: 2:00 AM Nov 20 2021
Focus Kadugannawa landslide: Man-made Disaster or Nature’s Wrath?

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage in Kadugannawa

With the current instability of land in the Pahala Kadugannawa area along the Colombo-Kandy Main Road, concerns are rising over what may have been the root cause that triggered the instability and what measures are being taken to mitigate any future disruption to this essential part of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure.

 Visiting the site of the landslide, Ceylon Today found most of the damage caused by the instability had already been cleared. However, many of the usual stalls and stops that dotted the side of the road did not survive the disaster. 

Speaking with one of the locals, it was discovered that this was not the first instance of land instability that has occurred in the area, with the first happening in the early 1980s. As such, locals of the Kadugannawa area have adopted a makeshift earlywarning system for any future instabilities. This is done by inserting a glass bottle into strategic locations of the rock, which would shatter as the earth becomes unstable. 

We learnt that this precaution did indeed alert the people in the surrounding area of the imminent danger, which may have helped prevent harm befalling any of the locals. Speaking with the NBRO’s emergency contact for landslide risk, R.M.S Bandara, Ceylon Today learnt that the cause behind the existing instability is the extensive rain which soaked the soil in between the road and railroad which are built over a solid bedrock. 

Although both the two remain stationary, the water-logged soil shifts under the added weight which has caused the instability. As a result, the shift has left fissures which are called tension cracks in the shifting soil, allowing more water into the soil and worsening the situation.

 “We have already sealed the tension crack, which prevents the situation from worsening,” he explained further, revealing that measures have been taken to direct water to flow downhill with minimal exposure to the soil using drains. Twenty-metre drains have also been inserted into the mountain to drain water trapped inside the soil mass which has also contributed to preventing further risk of damage. 

Currently, one lane of the road is opened up for regular traffic under strict observation by both the NBRO and RDA. Even so, Bandara shared that further studies and research is needed before addressing any longterm remedies in order to identify what may be the most effective and efficient solution. 

When speaking with locals, Ceylon Today discovered that water upstream is being directed into multiple collection points, hidden in the underbrush uphill, away from prying eyes. 

Supposedly, the collected water is then used later in order to wash vehicles of travellers as they stop to rest from the drive to and from Kandy. When asked if any human interaction may have exacerbated the situation, Bandara revealed that although human interaction may have contributed to the circumstance, it would only have a marginal, cumulative impact. (Pix by Manjula Dayawansa)

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage in Kadugannawa | Published: 2:00 AM Nov 20 2021

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