Home / News / India /  Wrong to relate situation in Joshimath with NTPC tunnel: Head of Tapovan project

An NTPC official has said that it is wrong to relate the land subsidence in Joshimath with the Tapovan Vishnugad Hydroelectric Project. The official has said that the tunnel is being built under "a competent rock" and it does not affect the surrounding rock mass.

"It is wrong to relate the situation in Joshimath with the NTPC tunnel since it is being constructed with the help of a tunnel boring machine. Out of the 12 km long tunnel, the 8.5 km tunnel is being done by tunnel boring and the rest will be done by blasting. The tunnel does not pass through Joshimath," said Rajendra Prasad Ahirwar, head of the Tapovan project.

Recently, the Hindustan Times reported that the Centre has ruled out correlations between the Joshimath sinking crisis and NTPC's 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project. The power ministry said that the NTPC tunnel does not pass under the town, attributing the ‘sinking’ to natural causes and increased construction activities.

However, locals, activists, a section of geologists, and environmental experts are of the view that NTPC's tunnel is responsible for Joshimath's situation.

Several Joshimath residents and activists are calling for the National Thermal Power Corporation to shut down its activities in the region, alleging that one of its projects contributed to subsidence in the area.

From the numerous small and big shops in the main markets to the residential properties, vehicles, and billboards, posters with the slogan "NTPC go back" have come up around the town in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district over the past few days.

Local people allege that the digging of a 12-km tunnel for the 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugad hydroelectric project exacerbated the subsidence in the area.

"We have always felt that NTPC, which has been working here, is responsible for the damage to a large extent. They are building a tunnel, their machine is stuck," said Sooraj Kapruwan, a hotel management graduate and local businessman.

The Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (JBSS) on Monday demanded that the 520 MegaWatt Tapovan-Vishnugad project developed by the NTPC be scrapped.

Activist Atul Sati believes that while there may be many reasons for making the region fragile, the current subsidence in Joshimath is to be blamed on the blasting caused for the project.

"The main reason behind this situation where the existence of Joshimath is in question is the Tapovan Vishnugad project and the NTPC company behind this project," Sati, president of the JBSS said.

"The L&T company was initially building the tunnel for NTPC but had to quit as it was not satisfied with the way the corporation worked. The central government should take the matter into its hands and declare Joshimath's subsidence a national disaster," he added.

Experts are also of the opinion that the power project is a cause for concern.

According to a 2010 paper compiled by geologists MPS Bisht and Piyoosh Rautela named 'Disaster looms large over Joshimath', the Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project is a major concern and its tunnel traverses "all through the geologically fragile area below Joshimath".

"There have been previous reports that tunneling related to the Tapovan Vishnugad project had pierced a large aquifer (underground water storage) in 2009 that led to a discharge of 60-70 million litres of water per day," said Kusala Rajendran, seismologist and professor at the Centre for Earth Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

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