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Finite element modeling approach to assess the stability of debris and rock slopes: a case study from the Indian Himalayas


Landslides and slope failures are recurrent phenomena in the Indian Himalayas. The study area comprises the hill slopes along a road stretch of 1.5 km at a distance of 9 km from Pipalkoti on Chamoli–Badrinath highway (NH-58) in the Garhwal Himalayas, India. Based on the field survey, contour map, and the hillshade, the study area has been divided into different zones. Three different zones/slopes in this study area including one potential debris slide, one stable debris slope, and one potential rock slide have been undertaken for investigation and modeling. Field mapping, data collection related to slope features and soil/rock sample collection, and discontinuity mapping for all the slopes have been carried out in field. Soil samples have been tested in the laboratory to determine the physico-mechanical properties. These properties along with some material properties from the literature have been used as input parameters for the numerical simulation. To investigate the failure process in the debris/rock slides as well as stable debris slope, the slopes were modeled as a continuum using 2D finite element plain strain approach. Shear strength reduction analysis was performed to determine the critical strength reduction factor. The computed deformations and the stress distributions, along the failure surface, have been compared with the field observations and found to be in good agreement. The analysis results indicated rock/debris slide slopes to be highly unstable. The debris slide modeling depicted failures both above and below road levels as observed in field. The rock slide modeling could depict the exact pattern of failure involving 3 sets of discontinuities simultaneously as observed in real-field scenario which is a major limitation in case of limit equilibrium analysis. The field-observed stable slope comes to be stable through FE analysis also. Based on these analyses, landslide hazard assessment of the study area could be done.

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The authors are grateful to Prof. S.K. Bhattacharyya, Director, CSIR-CBRI for his kind permission to publish this work.

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Correspondence to D. P. Kanungo.

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Kanungo, D.P., Pain, A. & Sharma, S. Finite element modeling approach to assess the stability of debris and rock slopes: a case study from the Indian Himalayas. Nat Hazards 69, 1–24 (2013).

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  • Finite element modeling
  • Shear strength reduction analysis
  • Continuum
  • Plain strain approach
  • Slope failures