Joshimath: Panic grips town, evacuation begins; CM Dhami to visit
After repeated protests by the residents of Joshimath against inaction over land subsidence, the Uttarakhand government began evacuating families from the town on Thursday. This came after 561 houses developed deep cracks while others were on the verge of collapsing. CM Pushkar Singh Dhami said the situation is being closely monitored, and he will visit Joshimath for assessment and take stock of the situation.
Why does this story matter?
- Joshimath is a Himalayan town and the starting point of several treks and trails. Its attraction for pilgrims and tourists has led to its exponential growth over the years, leading to the construction of buildings and roadways.
- The geographical stability of the town has, however, always been in question. In 2022, a Supreme Court-appointed panel found that Joshimath was built on an unstable foundation.
Families flee fearing collapse, some rescued
The residents of the houses that developed cracks were reportedly evacuated and shifted to night shelters by the district administration. Around 47 families were rescued and shifted to safer locations, per PTI. Over 3,000 people from 576 houses were affected, said Joshimath Municipal Chairman Shailendra Panwar. Earlier, people gathered on the streets with flaming torches to protest the government's alleged inaction in the matter.
Cracks increasing every hour: Joshimath municipal chairman
NTPC projects halted, DM asks for prefabricated houses for rehabilitation
Residents and experts have blamed the public sector National Thermal Power Corporation's (NTPC) projects, which are being constructed in the area, for the cracks. The construction of the Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower project and Helang-Marwadi bypass has been banned temporarily. The Chamoli district magistrate has asked the NTPC and the Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) to prepare 2,000 prefabricated buildings to rehabilitate people whose houses developed cracks.
Joshimath sits 6,000 feet high, falls in seismic Zone 5
Joshimath is located at an altitude of over 6,000 feet in the Chamoli district and falls in the high-risk Seismic Zone 5, the area most prone to earthquakes. A survey regarding the geological foundation of the town was first conducted by the Mishra Committee in 1976, which warned that blasting the hillside and construction by removing boulders would result in severe environmental damage.
What is land subsidence?
The sinking chaos in Joshimath is caused by a phenomenon called land subsidence, which refers to the vertical downward movement of the earth's surface in an area with little to no horizontal movement. The reason for the phenomenon could be both human and natural.