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Business News/ News / India/  Joshimath crisis: NTPC denies link but can it pass the buck ?

Joshimath crisis: NTPC denies link but can it pass the buck ?

The day work for the 4×130 MW was stopped on 5 January, after residents of Joshimath protested against the construction of the dam.

A man shows cracks in his house at Joshimath (PTI)Premium
A man shows cracks in his house at Joshimath (PTI)

A ‘sinking’ feeling, a bitter cold, a bleak future awaits the residents of the town of Joshimath which was declared ‘unsafe for living’ by the Government of India. While residents protested to retain their residential spaces, a town of 16,709 now face evacuation for ‘safety’.

The panic stricken residents of Joshimath now stare at huge cracks on the walls of their houses, on roads and a sinking ground which has now been cemented as their lived reality.

Land subsidence.

A word that is now synonymous with Joshimath for the past few days, refers to a situation when Earth's surface gradually or suddenly sinks owing to removal or displacement of subsurface earth materials.

Any textbook explanation confirms that land subsidence is more often caused by the removal of water, oil, natural gas, or mineral resources out of the ground by pumping, fracking, or mining activities. This can also be caused by natural events such as earthquakes, soil compaction, erosion and sinkhole formation.

A man-made disaster?

Activists and locals have claimed that the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC)'s Tapovan Vishnugad hydel project, being built just 12 kilometres away from Joshimath is responsible for the disaster.

According to Chamoli District Disaster Management Authority, 603 buildings in Joshimath town have developed cracks so far.

Residents of Joshimath have said that while the cracks aren’t new to them, they have accelerated in the last few days. The Garhwal commissioner Sushil Kumar echoing the same said to news agency PTI, “Land subsidence has been going on slowly in Joshimath for quite some time but it has increased over the past week with huge cracks appearing in houses, fields and roads. The situation worsened apparently after a water channel beneath the town erupted last week," he said.

Experts say that the problem has long existed, but has been ignored. Environmentalists have said that the biggest reason for Joshimath’s sinking is related to the geography of the town.

"This is a man-made disaster as all this is happening because of the tunnel of the NTPC that is being dug up and that should be filled up," Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera told reporters, adding that the problem has erupted due to the blasting in the NTPC tunnel that is being dug up in the area.

Rajni, a teacher employed with a private school in Joshimath and a resident of Manohar Bagh, told Hindustan Times, “We are staring at an uncertain future. The school where I work may vanish too."

She added that she and her family have asked them to shift to a hotel, but she worries what if the accommodation provided also develops cracks. “I am concerned about the safety of my daughter and son. Though the government says we should shift to hotels and other accommodations made available by them, what if they develop cracks too," she said.

Where does Tapovan Vishnugad hydel project fit?

The Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower Plant is a 520 MW run-of-river hydroelectric project being constructed on Dhauliganga River in Chamoli District of Uttarakhand, India. The plant is expected to generate over 2.5 TWh of electricity annually.

Two tunnels are being dug as part of the Tapovan-Vishnugad Hydroelectric Project. One is being dug from Tapovan and the other from Selang.

“Tunnelling is being done from one side by blasting and on the other with a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) from Selang. The TBM is still stuck in Selang. This work is being done by a private company due to which the situation has worsened," a geologist has said to Down to Earth.

NTPC says ‘no relation’

On 5 January, NTPC issued a statement saying that 'the tunnel being built by NTPC is not going under Joshimath city." “The construction has been done by tunnel boring machine." the statement added. The official statement further informed that no blasting has been done to construct the tunnel.

“The tunnel built by NTPC does not pass under Joshimath town. This tunnel is dug by a tunnel boring machine (TBM) and no blasting is being carried out presently," the official statement read.

The day work for the 4×130 MW was stopped on 5 January, after residents of Joshimath protested against the construction of the dam.

NTPC has informed that the land-subsidence in Joshimath has ‘no relation’ with the tunnel for the Tapovan Vishnugad hydel project.

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Sayantani Biswas
Sayantani is an editor with Livemint. She covers stories of International and Indian politics, conflict
Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.
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Published: 09 Jan 2023, 10:50 PM IST
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