Joshimath’s emergency memo on sustainability1 min read . Updated: 10 Jan 2023, 03:00 PM IST
Cracks across this hill town attributed partly to unsustainable infrastructure projects have starkly bared the dangers of ignoring ecological warnings in pursuit of pacy development
Joshimath, in the upper reaches of the Uttarakhand Himalayas, is not just another hill town. It is a gateway to significant religious shrines, popular skiing slopes and a ‘world heritage’ valley of flowers, all of which draw visitors in droves. This ancient settlement, however, has been unsettled by a literal shift of the ground under its residents’ feet. Hairline splits have turned into gaping cracks in roads, walls and floors, exposing the area’s fragility. The town, said to rest on the sediment of landslides, is rendered even more unstable by its sensitive seismic location. As panicky townsfolk seek safety and portents of a quake make news audiences across India hold their breath, central and state machinery for disaster management has been mobilized. On Sunday, the Prime Minister held a meeting to review the situation, even as evacuations have begun and all construction work has been stopped. This underscores the gravity of the threat. The administrative response, though, represents an awakening that has come almost half a century late.