Joshimath: Over 603 buildings develop cracks, 68 families relocated

  • Joshimath: National Thermal Power Corporation's Tapovan Vishnugad Hydro Power Project has remained the prime cause behind the current situation of Joshimath, say experts

Livemint
First Published9 Jan 2023
Joshimath: A resident sits next to a cracked wall of her house at Joshimath in Chamoli district of India's Uttarakhand. (AFP)
Joshimath: A resident sits next to a cracked wall of her house at Joshimath in Chamoli district of India’s Uttarakhand. (AFP)(HT_PRINT)

An entire town of around 20,000 population is on the verge of collapse as the houses in Uttrakhand's Joshimath develop yawning cracks. The cause of the apparent subsidence in the holiest town was unclear, but residents blamed the building of roads and tunnels for a nearby hydroelectric project.

According to experts, National Thermal Power Corporation's Tapovan Vishnugad Hydro Power Project has remained the prime cause behind the current situation of Joshimath.

As per the environmental experts, rampant infrastructure development without a plan is making the fragile Himalayan ecosystem even more vulnerable to the effects of climate change which acts as a force multiplier.

Prof. Y P Sundriyal, Head of Department, Geology, HNB Garhwal University, said: "The government has not learnt anything from the 2013 Kedarnath floods and the 2021 Rishi Ganga flash flooding. The Himalayas is a very fragile ecosystem. Most parts of Uttarakhand are either located in seismic zone V or IV which are prone to earthquakes.

"Climate change is further worsening the matter, with more extreme weather events. We need to have the formation of some strong rules and regulations and moreover forced and timely implementation of these rules. We are not against development but not at the cost of disasters," Sundriyal said.

"Joshimath is a very grave reminder that we are messing up with our environment to an extent that is irreversible," Anjal Prakash, one of the authors of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said, attributing the Joshimath caving incident to the hydropower project.

Yesterday, the Chamoli district administration distributed necessary assistance funds for essential household items to the affected families in Joshimath.

According to the report, a total of 603 buildings have developed cracks and 68 families have been relocated.

Whereas a much larger number had already fled their homes and around 600 houses and hotels were sinking.

Many locals have been forced to sleep out in the freezing cold and said they had been warning authorities for weeks and in some cases months about cracks in buildings and roads, some of which were oozing brown muddy water.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister's Office held a high-level review meeting on Joshimath land subsidence.

P K Mishra, the prime minister's principal secretary who held the meeting, stressed that the immediate priority should be the safety of people living in the affected area and said the state government should establish a clear and continuous communication channel with the residents.

The Border Management secretary and members of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will visit Uttarakhand today and assess the situation.

A team of experts from NDMA, National Institute of Disaster Management, Geological Survey of India, IIT Roorkee, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, National Institute of Hydrology, and Central Building Research Institute will study the situations and give recommendations, the PMO said.

Uttarakhand chief secretary said state and district officials with the support of central experts have assessed the situation on the ground and informed that a strip of land with a width of around 350 meters is affected, the PMO noted.

Joshimath is the gateway to famous pilgrimage sites like Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib and the international skiing destination Auli.

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