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This Popular Tourist Destination Is Sinking… Joshimath Declared ‘Disaster-Prone’

Joshimath: The Sinking City

Joshimath, also known as Jyotirmath is a city in the Chamoli District in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. The hilly town has been declared a ‘sinking zone’ in the wake of continuing land subsidence with several houses, roads, and other buildings developing cracks.

Joshimath: Panic in India's Uttarakhand town

Image Courtesy: BBC

The residents have blamed power and road construction projects for their situation. Chamoli District Magistrate Himanshu Khurana said two teams from the central government are visiting Joshimath to review the situation. On Sunday, January 8, the Prime Minister’s Office held a ‘high-level meeting’ to address the land subsidence situation. The PMO reportedly advised the state government to “establish a clear and continuous communication channel with the residents.”

What is happening in Joshimath?

A total of 4,500 buildings in Joshimath and 610 of these have developed huge cracks making them un-livable.

Several reports have noted how Joshimath residents have spent most of their time in the open since the cracks began widening a week ago. The Uttarakhand government has been evacuating them.

The convener of the Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, as having said that residents had issued warnings this year ago. “We had warned years back that NTPC’s work is going to get this town to sink. No one paid heed. Look at the situation of Joshimath now,” he added.

What are the experts telling?

Land subsidence in Joshimath is primarily due to the NTPC’s (National Thermal Power Corporation) Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project and is a very grave reminder that people are messing up with the environment to an irreversible extent, experts said on January 8.

Joshimath Sinking

Image Courtesy:

The infrastructure building is damaging and playing with the environment which is leading to the landslide, according to experts.

What do the studies say?

A study conducted last year identified the vulnerability of the town by analysing the 2009 Balia Nala Landslide. Nainital is situated in the Kumaun Lesser Himalaya and a 2016 report indicates that half of the area of the township is covered with debris generated by landslides.

“What we are seeing in Joshimath, can very easily and soon replicate in Nainital, Uttarkashi and Champawat, which are highly prone to seismic activity,” the study notes.

The study says that in cases of a landslide, the slope pattern seems to be the fundamental factor for the catastrophe. Secondly, rock types also play a very dominant role in the mass movements followed by the tectonic set-up of the area.

What are the officials stating?

“The Joshimath area has been declared disaster-prone. Two teams from the central government, including a team from the Jal Shakti ministry, are arriving here. Construction activities have been banned in Joshimath and nearby areas. Dry ration kits are being distributed to the affected people,” the Chamoli DM said.

Joshimath won’t be saved unless NTPC’s project is stopped

Image Courtesy: Flipboard

“Secretary, Border Management, and all four members of NDMA will visit Uttarakhand on 9th January. They will undertake a detailed assessment of the findings of the technical teams (NDMA, NIDM, NDRF, GSI, NIH, Wadia Institute, IIT Roorkee) that have just returned from Joshimath and advise the State Government on immediate, short-medium-long-term actions to address the situation,” PMO said in a statement released on Sunday.

NTPC issued a letter on January 5 clarifying about the cracks in buildings in Joshimath and said, “NTPC Tapovan Bishnugarh Hydro Electric Project tunnel is not responsible for the landslide in Joshimath town. In this regard, it has been clarified that the tunnel constructed by NTPC is not passing under Joshimath town. This tunnel has been constructed with a tunnel boring machine. Also currently no blasting work is being done at this time,” NTPC said.

What’s next?

The Main Central Thrust (MCT-2) is a geological fault where the Indian Plate pushes under the Eurasian Plate along the Himalayas. Humans cannot do much once such a geological activity is triggered. The study notes that one is left with only a few options and the most important choice is to treat such disasters by using very high-tech engineering.

Amid this, the authorities have temporarily identified 229 rooms in the Joshimath town area as habitable, with a capacity estimated at 1,271 people, which mathematically means that each house can accommodate an average of 5.55 people in it.

Under sections 33 and 34 of the Disaster Management Act, the administration has also ordered an urgent evacuation of locals from areas prone to excessive landslides and deemed unsafe, after assessing the risk to life and property. “The work of identifying places affected by landslides is in progress and the vulnerable families are being temporarily shifted to safer places,” an official said, ANI reported.

Karnaprayag, Uttarakhand - Info, Timings, Photos, History

Karnaprayag, Uttarakhand. Image Courtesy: templepurohit

While Joshimath is at the peak of losing its land to landslides, similar issues and sinking complaints have come from Karnaprayag, which is 80 kilometres away from Joshimath.



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