For the last week, Manipuri papers have been carrying regular updates on a mysterious “earth crack” in Kankpokpi district in the hills. It appeared on the morning of June 4, leading to a panic about possible landslides. A resident of the area described how they felt a sudden “earth movement” and their house nearly collapsed.
The crack originated below J Songtun village and then spread towards Kalikhola village. By June 5, 11 houses had collapsed while 19 others were on the brink of destruction. Angry fissures also passed through surrounding paddy fields and roads, destroying them too. By June 8, the crack had widened and affected structures in a five kilometre radius, damaging water pipelines and electric posts. Two water bodies had formed near Kalikhola village.
About 250 people have been moved to relief camps, where they have to make do with scanty water and electricity. After a visit to the area, Manipur Tribal Development Minister N Kayisii provided Rs 3 lakh in financial assistance to those displaced by the fissure. After principal secretary, relief and disaster management, inspected the fissure, along with other Kangpokpi officials, Rs 20 lakh was sanctioned as relief.
The causes of the crack are a mystery. A team from the Geological Survey of India also went to study the crack. Briefly, there was a rumour claiming that a dormant volcano in the Koubru range was showing signs of life, causing the ground to shift. But the story has since been dismissed: similar rumours had floated up in the state assembly after landslides in 1989, this report claims.
According to Th Ranjit, associate professor at a science college in the state, it was a result of the recent bout of heavy rains in deforested hills with rich soil cover. Earth cracks have appeared in several parts of the world before, in South Africa and Wyoming and the middle of the Arizona desert. At times, it was attributed to the shifting of the earth’s tectonic plates. Some were called sinkholes. In Arizona, it was believed that the withdrawal of ground water had left a void which made the earth cave in.
Meanwhile, the geological curiosity had drawn hordes of visitors from nearby villages in the Manipur hills. The district administration may impose Section 144 to keep them away from the hazardous area.