IoT-Based Geotechnical Monitoring of Unstable Slopes for Landslide Early Warning in the Darjeeling Himalayas

Sensors (Basel). 2020 May 3;20(9):2611. doi: 10.3390/s20092611.


In hilly areas across the world, landslides have been an increasing menace, causing loss of lives and properties. The damages instigated by landslides in the recent past call for attention from authorities for disaster risk reduction measures. Development of an effective landslide early warning system (LEWS) is an important risk reduction approach by which the authorities and public in general can be presaged about future landslide events. The Indian Himalayas are among the most landslide-prone areas in the world, and attempts have been made to determine the rainfall thresholds for possible occurrence of landslides in the region. The established thresholds proved to be effective in predicting most of the landslide events and the major drawback observed is the increased number of false alarms. For an LEWS to be successfully operational, it is obligatory to reduce the number of false alarms using physical monitoring. Therefore, to improve the efficiency of the LEWS and to make the thresholds serviceable, the slopes are monitored using a sensor network. In this study, micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS)-based tilt sensors and volumetric water content sensors were used to monitor the active slopes in Chibo, in the Darjeeling Himalayas. The Internet of Things (IoT)-based network uses wireless modules for communication between individual sensors to the data logger and from the data logger to an internet database. The slopes are on the banks of mountain rivulets (jhoras) known as the sinking zones of Kalimpong. The locality is highly affected by surface displacements in the monsoon season due to incessant rains and improper drainage. Real-time field monitoring for the study area is being conducted for the first time to evaluate the applicability of tilt sensors in the region. The sensors are embedded within the soil to measure the tilting angles and moisture content at shallow depths. The slopes were monitored continuously during three monsoon seasons (2017-2019), and the data from the sensors were compared with the field observations and rainfall data for the evaluation. The relationship between change in tilt rate, volumetric water content, and rainfall are explored in the study, and the records prove the significance of considering long-term rainfall conditions rather than immediate rainfall events in developing rainfall thresholds for the region.

Keywords: Indian Himalayas; IoT; early warning system; landslides; monitoring; sensors.