You are on page 1of 9


Siting of Human Settlements

in Hilly Terrains
Amitava Sarkar

India Earthquake
Zone Map

Solutions for risk or thousands of years, the majestic try. These Hills have accommodated
management in hilly
regions through Good
Siting Practices...
F Himalayan mountain range is look-
ing after India. The Himalayan
range has protected and nourished India
human settlements of various sizes,
which have flourished over the years. The
crunch of the situation at present is that
and is still doing it. India is crowned with these settlements are both growing in
hills stretching from Kashmir and number and size.
Himachal Pradesh in North-West to The entire stretch of hilly region has
Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland in wide variations in geology, geomorphol-
extreme North-East covering the whole ogy, climate, altitude and materials
of the Himalayan range. These mountains resources. The varying geological situa-
are contributing immensely in the overall tions and ongoing development activi-
development and progress of the coun- ties, climatic variation, hydro-geological

40 ARCHITECTURE - Time Space & People December 2008

Damages caused by landslides

conditions result in different types of haz- in these areas. Among the various cata- These areas are prone to seismic activity
ards like landslides, avalanches, mud strophic calamities, these hilly regions as most regions fall under seismic zones
flows, flash floods which occur frequently also have high risk due to earthquakes. IV and V.
Unprecedented exploitation of the
Himalayas is another reason for occur-
rence of landslides. North, North-West
Himalayan areas consisting of Jammu
and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and
Western Uttar Pradesh are more prone
to avalanches, earthquakes, floods and
high speed winds. Sikkim is highly
prone to landslides and seismic activity.
North-East Himalayan area consisting
of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram,
Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, Manipur
and Assam are mostly affected by
floods and fall under seismic zone V.
These hilly areas are prone to two or
more types of natural calamities, such
as floods and landslides, earthquakes,
avalanches and landslides. There may
be also overlapping of occurances
Adverse Human actions affecting hills of disasters.

December 2008 ARCHITECTURE - Time Space & People 41

CLIMATE IN INDIAN HILLS • Enacting Roles & Responsibilities of Following points shall be kept in view
Hilly regions of the Himalayan range from Professionals, Builders, Homeowners with reference to particular risks.
North-West to extreme North-East fall and Authorities
under cold humid and temperate humid • Creation of scientific databases Earthquake
climate. The climatic conditions shall be through investigations and mapping • Available data on disposition of fault-
categorised on the basis of average of at local level for zonation practice & ing and spread of poor bearing soils
daily mean temperature and relative landuse regulation for sensitive areas. and unrestrained sands should
humidity for the month. Temperate 20°C - • Timely Technological Intervention be used.
30°C, cool 15°C -20°C and cold < 15°C tem- and Counter-disaster measures in • Narrow ridges, steep slopes, narrow
perature, and dry 25-30, humid 50-75 and hazardous situations for effective risk valleys and sites near cliffs or large
very humid 75- 100 percent humidity. management solutions. gullies that are within 150 m should
These hilly regions are having fol- • Siting as a compulsory part of an inte- be avoided.
lowing climatic conditions during the grated building design process. • Sites with hard bedrock at or near the
stated months. surface should be preferred.
The Development authorities should, • Sites where landslides are unknown
Month North North-East
• Regulate Land-use through Micro- in surrounding area should
January Cold humid Cold humid
level Hazard Zonation Studies to min- be preferred.
May Cold dry Temperate
humid imise risks due to natural hazards and • Sites where there is no sign of active
August Temperate Temperate physical vulnerability. faulting should be chosen and offset
very humid very humid • Discourage casual approach and rock lays, row of ponds or swamps
November Cold Temperate encourage systematic siting, con- and deep or long cracks in ground
humid humid
struction and maintenance approach. should be avoided.
Residential buildings shall essentially • Restore and Rejuvenate degraded,
be a form of protection against the exter- abandoned and waste lands. Landslides
nal climate. The prevailing climatic condi- Guidelines are recommended actions • All available data on disposition of
tion shall, therefore, be a major factor for for best practices to achieve better goals risk area should be used.
consideration in design of a house to but not mandatory to follow. Standards • Local geographical conditions shall
ensure a reasonable degree of thermal and codes are mandatory to follow to indicate severity of risk.
comfort to the occupants. avoid any techno-legal implications.
Traditionally, house facing the east Snow avalanches
direction are preferred by the inhabitants GUIDELINES FOR SITING • Use all available data on disposition
in North and North-East regions of the Siting guidelines refers to searching, of risk area. Heavy snow fall may be
Himalayas due to exposure to sunlight. selecting, evaluating, planning, design- associated with heavy rains.
ing, development, maintenance and • Prefer sites away from avalanches
BASIC GUIDELINES OF monitoring of sites for safe and sustain- sites.
SUSTAINABLE GROWTH able landuse through micro-level site • Avoid formation of snow pockets on
All the developmental activities in hilly investigations & zonation practices. roof and on site.
areas must be done in an integrated man- Integrate physical, ecological and envi- • Design roofs with slopes greater than
ner with the existing settlement structure ronmental elements with development 50º to disregard snow load.
of the surroundings resulting into a process and also consider the potential
coherent and sustainable growth. slope instabilities and failures. GOOD SITING PRACTICE
Through proper guidelines, the con- • No house shall preferably be located • Advantage of natural site features
cerned agencies must ensure: closer than 1 m to another house. such as topography, geology, hydrol-
• Selection, Planning, Designing and • No house shall preferably be located ogy, sunlight / shade, breeze, existing
Use of Appropriate Sites for Specific closer than 10 m to a steep slope. landuse, landcover & infrastructure
Purposes / Activities to stimulate • No house shall be built on a land fill or should be utilised.
Sustainable Development and Safer on the edge of a slope known to have • Integrate the building architec-
Human Habitat. been levelled. turally into natural context of site,

42 ARCHITECTURE - Time Space & People December 2008

which minimize the appearance Many a times design opportunities • Existing structures and Adjacent
and aesthetic views. emerge from the existing site con- Landuse.
• Minimize site clearing, excavation and straints. In order to exploit the full • Easements, views.
earthworks to reduce costs. potential of the site the inventory and
• Preserve existing vegetation, analysis of following features should INVESTIGATION OF SITES
which can reduce landscape be made: Investigation of sites must be carried out
maintenance costs. • Proximity to hazardous areas / sensi- by conducting thorough field observa-
• Mitigate erosion to reduce tive / critical areas. tions & Mapping and by collecting sam-
topsoil loss. • Topography & Slope Conditions (gra- ples of soils from the site for laboratory
• Manage for stormwater runoff and dient, aspect etc.). and in-situ testing. All data thus collected
erosion. • Geology & Geomorphology. will be integrated for computations,
• Minimize groundwater and surface • Neotectonics, Active Tectonics & analysis and inferences.
water pollution. Paleo-Seismicity. Following information will be gener-
• Minimize disturbance to natural • Seismological records and histori- ated from the site-investigation:
drainage & hydrological system. cal data. ■ Preparing Engineering Geologic
• Reduce the risk of natural hazards • Meteorology, Micro-climatology & Mapping:
through prevention & mitigation. Hydrogeology. Topographic Maps, Aerial Photos,
• Investigate ground conditions before • Vegetation / Landcover. S a t e l l i t e I m a g e r i e s a n d Fi e l d
planning design & construction. • Existing & Proposed Infrastructure. Observation / Data.

The site constraints in Hill areas

December 2008 ARCHITECTURE - Time Space & People 43

design & evaluation of landslide /
liquefaction / settlement potential in
adverse conditions;
Repor ting Sampling & Testing
Procedure; Data, Results & Interpretation
■ In-situ / Field Testing:
Geophysical (cross hole, down hole, GPR,
Geotechnical: Surface & Subsurface
(SPT, CPT, Shear Wave Velocity etc.)
■ Computations:
Integration of all data / information (cre-
ating the GIS), Analysis and Inferences
■ Producing Professional Reports
with comments and Peer review of
Conducting Field Survey
An integrated ground – structure (foun-
■ Conducting Laboratory Tests: Compressibilty, wave velocity etc.) dation and superstructure) – hazard inter-
M a t e r i a l C l a s s i f i c a t i o n ( D e n s i t y, and Characterization for engineering action analysis should be carried out by

Examples of Good Hillside practice

44 ARCHITECTURE - Time Space & People December 2008

conducting Site-response analysis based
on - conditions for Ground Failures and
Slope Stability Analysis in adverse condi-
tions (considering high seismic accelera-
tions and pore water pressures). Also
the Structural Response Analysis
(Vulnerability) will be carried out based
on Performance based fail safe / safe fail-
ure analysis. The Frequency, Magnitude &
Duration of all Hazardous events must be
listed down for consideration.
Along with the above mentioned
analytical data, the information regarding
the Risk Assessment, Mitigation
Measures, Maintenance & Monitoring,
Warning & Alert, and Preparedness &
Emergency Response with respect to the
location of the settlement should be
obtained for safety. Good Practices to avoid Landslides

Examples of Poor Hillside practice

December 2008 ARCHITECTURE - Time Space & People 45

The topographical map of the study area
is obtained and divided into smaller seg-
ments of slope facets. On the slope facet
map, a number of the pre-field maps are
prepared so that these can be carried to
the field, verified and modified wherever
required. The geological data from the
already available regional scale maps are
collected and transferred on the facet
map. The slope morpho-metric map and
the relative relief map shall be prepared
from the topographical maps. The avail-
able information regarding land use and
land cover from the topographical maps
shall also be transferred to a slope facet
map. If aerial photographs or satellite
imageries of the area are available, more
accurate data on land use and land cover
can be obtained. The wet patches on the
slopes shall be identified using satellite
imageries or aerial photographs and the
same shall be transferred on a slope facet
map for field validation.
The pre-field maps are carried to
the field and they are validated facet-
wise. While working on one bank of the
river, the facets on the other side are
also carefully observed. Using data
from the Standards, individual factorial
maps namely lithological map, struc-
tural map, slope morphometric map,
relative relief map, land use and land
cover map and hydrogeological map A Typical map of the study area
are prepared. For awarding ratings on
structures, the observed structural dis- the total estimated hazard (TEHD) by factors within a facet using the follow-
continuities are plotted on stereonet adding the ratings of all the causative ing Table.
and the preferred orientation as well as Landslide Hazard Zonation on the Basis of Total Estimated Hazard (TEHD)
possible types of failures is also Zone TEHD Value Description of Zone
obtained. Moreover the visual stability I <3.5 Very low hazard (VLH) zone
conditions may be noted for compari- II 3.5 to 5.0 Low hazard (LH) zone
son after analysis. III 5.1 to 6.0 Moderate hazard (MH) zone
The LANDSLIDE HAZARD ZONATION IV 6.0 to 7.5 High hazard (HH) zon
(LHZ) map is prepared by calculating V >7.5 Very high hazard (VHH) zone

46 ARCHITECTURE - Time Space & People December 2008

A typical Slope Morphometry map Landslide Hazard Zonation Map for the study area

Major roads, important towns and hill-regions. For the integrated and sus- Permit Regulations must be enforced
villages shall also be shown on the tainable socio-spatio-economic devel- for Development Control, Public
final LHZ map for the purpose of opment of the hill regions in India the Awareness and Education on Landslide
regional planning. requisites, roles, responsibilities & liabili- Management Strategies. The individual
ties of the professionals, authorities, homeowner’s must be also made aware
CONCLUSION builders and homeowners involved of their obligations and responsibilities
Impact of Road Construction, must be ensured. to avoid any disaster and casualty by
Deforestation, Mining, Shifting Professionals, Builders and training them through demonstration
Cultivation, Forest Fires / Wild Fires, Contractors must have the necessary about the good practices of construc-
Overgrazing, Dams / Reservoirs / qualifications & experience to carry out tion in hill terrains. Techno-legal &
Irrigation / Water Supply /Sewerage the construction activities in the hilly Techno-financial aspects like, Building
Systems, Power & Telecommunication areas. The Scientists, Engineers and Loans, Tax Reliefs, Insurance Premiums,
Lines, Blasting Activities (mining, road, Decision makers must be trained and Incentives, should be used to attract
hydel etc.), heavy machinery – all these made aware of all the guidelines appli- the local people to adopt the good and
activities endanger building-safety in cable in the hill regions. Building safe construction practices. It should

December 2008 ARCHITECTURE - Time Space & People 47

to retain the beauty, glory and sanctity
of the Hills, which are treasures
of India and also the universe at the
larger context.

● National Building Code 2005
● IS 14496 (Part 2):1998 Guidelines for
preparation of landslide – Hazard
zonation maps in mountainous ter-
rain: Part 2 Macro Zonation
● IS 14680:1999 Guidelines for
Landslide Control IS 14804:2000
Guidelines for Siting, Design and
Selection of Materials for residential
buildings in Hilly Areas
● BMTPC, New Delhi ■

Amitava Sarkar is a Lecturer,

Construction on Slope
Architecture Department, NIT-
be clear from the above discussions region must carry out their duty by tak- Hamirpur (H.P.)
that all the stakeholders involved in the ing a holistic approach towards their Photographs: Cour tesy the
developmental activities in the hilly action and must always be sensitive Author.

Subscription form for

Council of Architecture’s monthly Magazine architec
Vol. 8

c e & P e o re
Issue 12

Time Spa
Rs 30

DEC 200
The Registrar p pl e
Council of Architecture
India Habitat Centre, Core-6A, 1st Floor, Lodhi Road, New Delhi – 110 003
Tel: 011-24648415, 24654172
Cita OeGlUE
Dear Sir, Los Angd
, U.S.A
I would like to subscribe to “Architecture-Time Space & People” for 12 months for Rs. 300/- URBAN
[Cover Price per issue Rs.30/-]. My Particulars are here as under : & Garde
n City Co
Siting of Hum
TERI man
EnjoyORth S
Acoustics e
in Hil ly Terra
CoA Regn. No. C A / ____________________________________________________________ The M
the expe
rience Jnnurm

(If Registered with CoA)

aga zine
of th
e Co
un cil of
– Urbanvist
re, In

Name _______________________________________________________________________ architec

Vol. 8

c e & P e o re
Issue 11

Communication Address ________________________________________________________ Time Spa

Rs 30
NOV 200

____________________________________________________________________________ p pl e
City ____________________PIN _____________________State________________________
Telephone ______________STD _______________________Tel________________________ ArchitVIec
the ture
Mobile _______________________________Email __________________________________ and the jo ur ne y
Girgaum: ritage...
I enclose herewith a Demand Draft/Pay Order No._________ Dated _________ for Rs. 300 Bust
market lin
area ofg
South Mu
towards subscription for a period of 12 month, drawn in favour of “Council of Architecture”, HISTOR IN
payable at New Delhi. Towe ERVIEW nt Acou
‘Club’bi stics
Sym ring ng Soun und
& Interior
of Temple-b o ls
Yours faithfully, Tamil Nadu Gopu rams,
En rgy

Mod llein
for bue
The M
aga zine
of th
e Co
un cil of
t ectur
e, In

Signature with Date

48 ARCHITECTURE - Time Space & People December 2008