Uttarakhand is facing the issues of landslide and flood like situation since the last few years. In a latest, due to land subsidence, many houses in Joshimath town situated in Chamoli District, have developed huge cracks. Looking at the threat of the situation, Pushkar Singh Dhami-led Uttarakhand Government has ordered the immediate evacuation of around 600 families living in these houses. As per the officials, the land has been sinking over the past year due to land subsidence, however the problem only got escalated in the last fortnight. Also, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on January 7 visited Joshimath to conduct an inspection of the landslide-affected areas here and met the affected families.
LIVE: जोशीमठ में प्रभावित क्षेत्र का स्थलीय सर्वेक्षण एवं स्थानीय लोगों से मुलाकात करते हुए
— Pushkar Singh Dhami (@pushkardhami) January 7, 2023
Cracks have been found at several places on the Joshimath-Malari border road, which connects the India-China border. A large part of the Badrinath National Highway is also in the grip of landslides. District Magistrate Himanshu Khurana said that all construction work had been halted in view of the situation in Joshimath until further orders. Teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have also been deployed in the area as a precautionary measure.
A team of experts recently conducted a survey and revealed that the fear among residents was true. The city is actually sinking at its base. Chamoli District administration has said that families whose houses got damaged and became homeless will be given Rs 4,000 per family for 6 months from Chief Minister Relief Fund.
Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami said, “SDRF teams are evacuating the residents who were living in the affected areas. Our priority is to secure the residents and form a strategy to prevent further damage.”
“The government is also taking help from experts. Officials of district administration, Natural Disaster & others are camping to look after the evacuation process,” Chief Minister further added.
“Affected people are being shifted to night shelters and tourists are now banned from staying in hotels damaged by landslides. Cracks have occurred due to water coming from below the ground in some areas. We are monitoring the situation,” said Sushil Kumar, Divisional Commissioner, Garhwal Division on January 6, 2023.
Here it is important to know why Joshimath town is having cracks suddenly and situation become volatile.
Joshimath is situated in the middle slopes of a hill bounded by the Karmanasa and Dhaknala streams on the west and the east and the Dhauliganga and Alaknanda rivers on the south and the north.
At a height of 6,150 feet, Joshimath, is also known as Jyotirmath and is a gateway to Hindu pilgrim centres like Badrinath, which is one of the four pīthas established by Adi Shankara. Joshimath is also strategically important as it connects India-China border.
According to a study by Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority (USDMA), Joshimath town is located in an area prone to landslides and the first instance of subsidence. Also, the perennial streams, appreciable snow in the upper reaches, and highly weathered gneissic rocks with low cohesive characteristics makes the area prone to landslides.
Earlier, in February 2021, Chamoli District faces a massive flood like situation. The flood swept away the unfinished Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower Project and inflicted substantial damage on the Rishi Ganga Hydropower Project.
Also, here it is important to mention the Kedarnath tragedy in 2013, which is near to Joshimath. The flash floods triggered by very heavy rainfall and cloudburst affected almost every districts in the state. Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Uttarkashi and Pithoragarh, were the worst affected Districts. About 5000 people lost their lives in this unprecedented natural calamity. The flood washed away roads, bridges and other infrastructure. In Kedarnath alone thousands of pilgrims stranded due to landslides and flash floods.
Joshimath’s attraction for pilgrims and tourists has led to the construction of buildings and roadways in the region. A survey regarding this was first conducted in 1976 when a committee warned, “The construction by removing boulders and blasting the hillside would lead to severe environmental damage in the region”.
In the year 2021, a multi-institutional survey was requested by a Supreme Court-appointed panel. The survey concluded that Joshimath is built on an unstable foundation. It is located in a high-risk seismic ‘zone-V’ which can give way to landslides in case of heavy rain and tremors.
A report submitted by the Disaster Management Department to the Uttarakhand Government last year had said Joshimath was built on an unstable foundation and has a poor drainage system. The erosion by rivers have compounded the situation in the past few years. The survey recommended that construction in certain parts of the town be stopped.
The Union Government setted up a panel to conduct a study of the occurrence of land subsidence and its impact on Joshimath town.
Till now, a total of 38 families have been displaced.