Location & Description
Malpa used to be a remote Himalayan hamlet of seven huts and a stopover for the night stay for the pilgrims of Kailash Manas Sarovar Yatra till 1998. There was a steep, almost vertical, slope of rock above the valley. In addition to the slopes, the proximity of the rock mass to major tectonic plates, major rainfall into the porous rock, and stress on the rock formations all contribute to the repeated landslides. The earthquakes of 1979 and 1980 may have been the underlying cause, as was attributed by a report of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology.
The Malpa landslide of 1998 was one of the worst landslides in India. On 18 August 1998, at 3.00 a.m., massive landslides wiped away the entire village of Malpa in Kali Valley of Higher Kumaon division of the Himalayas. The rock fall started on 16 August bringing down huge rocks which initially killed three mules. Within 90 seconds, a total of 221 people died, including 60 Hindu pilgrims travelling to Tibet as part of "Kailash Manas Sarovar Yatra".
One noted death was that of the Indian dancer Protima Bedi. The rock fall continued till 21 August.
The landslide generated around one million cubic meters of rock fall and debris flow. This debris partially blocked the Kali River also known as Sharda River. The landslide prevailed mostly due to Natural disasters in the area and have been attributed to ″unplanned construction and urbanization on the fluvial and un-consolidated materials produced by active faults/thrusts in various sectors”.
The landslide demonstrated the distressed state of rock in the Himalayan region because of the drift of the Indian plate northward.
Crushed and broken remains of Malpa stayed under a heap of rocks two storey high. The death came thundering down when a neighbouring mountain, weakened by incessant rain, simply fell on it. After eight days and 150 helicopter sorties since that fateful stormy night, only 32 bodies could be pulled out of the devastation by 80 people labouring at the site. The collapsed mountain was immovable with the meagre tools at hand. So great was the mountain falling that the raging Kali was forced out from its old bed and tried its altered course.
Path of Malpa landslide in 1998
In 2018 also, due to heavy rains, the roads between Garbadhar, Malpa and Najang had been badly damaged and Adi Kailash tour organised by the Kumaun Mandal Vikash Nigam had to be suspended.
Malpa camp site is no longer used as a night stay for Kailash Manas Sarovar pilgrims. However, pilgrims stop here for having lunch.
Compiled by Ms. Bani Baral, author of "Kailash Manas Sarovar Yatra, looking back – Day 6 Journey from Gala to Malpa"
Map location is approximate