Did You Know ‘Sinking’ Joshimath is Built on Old Landslide? Shocking Facts, 50-yr-old Alert Explained


Joshimath, the traditional Uttarakhand city the place non secular reformer Adi Shankaracharya attained enlightenment within the eighth century, has develop into a explanation for concern. Asia’s longest ropeway has been closed for vacationers, two lodges have been shut, individuals are out on streets protesting, whereas practically 66 households have shifted out of their homes. The happenings in Joshimath are a second jolt to the hill state that is already witnessing stir in Haldwani over eviction notices, prompting many to attract a parallel between Haldwani agitation and Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh which was held over the Citizenship Amendment Act 2020.

The residents of Joshimath blocked the Badrinath nationwide freeway on Thursday amid recent frenzy with water oozing out from the ‘Joshimath rock’. The individuals had already been battling ominous cracks and crevices that appeared of their homes, roads and agricultural fields.

On Monday midnight, they heard sounds from beneath the floor of the bottom. In concern, many households had been evacuated to safer areas on Wednesday, and extra are in line. Adding to the frenzy, an aquifer additionally burst in an space across the JP residential colony in Marwari.

The panicked locals, who’ve been petitioning the federal government to cease all constructions of their “sinking” city, on Wednesday night got here out on streets with torchlights of their arms. There is a scare that the hillside on which the city is located is going to break down because it is “located on an old landslide”, thus making it vulnerable.

Trying to pacify the residents, the Uttarakhand government formed a team of scientists on Thursday to find out the reason for land subsidence and cracks in the houses. The team will go to the spot and investigate the reason.

A ‘Google Earth’ image of Joshimath shows part of land missing on the centre right.

By evening, the Chamoli district magistrate ordered immediate suspension of work on Tapovan-Vishnugad hydro project and ongoing construction of Helang bypass — the projects that are considered to be one of the main reasons for subsidence.

News agency ANI stated that cracks have reportedly developed in as many as 561 houses. “Now the process of increasing cracks in Singhdhar and Marwadi has started. Badrinath NH near Singhdhar Jain locality and JP Company Gate in Marwadi, near the forest department check post, is continuously cracking. This crack is increasing every hour which is worrying,” said Joshimath Municipal Chairman Shailendra Pawar.

When Were The First Signs of ‘Sinking’ Joshimath Noticed

The cracks appearing in homes first hit the national news in 2021 when the catastrophic landslide in Chamoli triggered several landslides. The residents started using wooden poles to provide some support to the homes they are residing in. The next year too seismic tremors were experienced often.

Even then, in 2022, an expert panel was set up by the Uttarakhand government. The team found that several pockets of Joshimath are “sinking” due to man-made and natural factors.

The panel found that ground subsidence — a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the earth’s surface due to removal or displacement of subsurface materials — has induced structural defects and damage observed in almost all wards of Joshimath, according to reports.

A survey conducted by the municipality of Joshimath last year stated that cracks have appeared in over 500 houses in the town over a year rendering them inhabitable.

The expert team consisted of Nagar Palika chairman Shailendra Panwar, SDM Kumkum Joshi, geological expert Deepak Hatwal, executive engineer (irrigation) Anoop Kumar Dimri and district disaster management officer N K Joshi. On December 24, people affected by the gradual “sinking” of Joshimath took out a protest march in the town, accusing the administration of not taking any corrective steps.

In December, Lalita Devi, former ward member of Gandhinagar, had stated that more than 40 families are living in “such risky conditions” in Joshimath’s Gandhinagar, Ravigram and Sunil areas, while 10 families living in homes with wooden poles for additional support. The locals alleged that despite a geological survey of the town, no help was provided to the affected families so far.

Notably, Joshimath in Chamoli district is important not only due to its proximity to the Indo-Tibet border but also as it is the last major town on the routes to Badrinath, Valley of Flowers and Hemkund.

What Caused Several Landslides

Excessive construction has caused several large-scale landslides in the region. CSIR chief scientist DP Kanungo stated that between 2009 and 2012, as many as 128 landslides were recorded in the Chamoli-Joshimath region.

Ravi Chopra, former chair of the High Power Committee (HPC) on the all-weather Char Dham Road project, said that among various reasons for the subsidence of Joshimath, the top two reasons would be tunnelling and slope cutting. “The precautions advocated by the Mishra committee since 1976 have not been respected. In addition to the rapid growth of the city, we have imposed additional burdens by digging a tunnel that has perforated a large aquifer,” he said.

The Warning for ‘Sinking’ Joshimath Was Issued 50 Years Ago

The Times of India had last year accessed the Mishra Committee report of 1976 which had warned against such an eventuality almost 50 years ago.

“For road repairs and other construction, it would be advisable not to remove boulders by digging or blasting the hill side… The trees are to be nurtured like children,” read a recommendation in the report.

According to the report, old-timers in the town, who once “rebuked” the Mishra panel members for their “forewarning”, are now ruing the fact that “successive governments failed to take heed of the panel’s findings”.

A 66-year-old Joshimath resident recalled her interaction with survey team in 1976. “I lived in a rented accommodation in Singhdhar and my husband was working in ITBP. The panel surveyed the area from Tapovan to Suneel and on reaching our ‘kuccha’ house, they said that ‘your town will sink as it has a lifeline of just 100 years’. We got furious and scolded them for using ‘apshabd’ (bad words) and ‘cursing’ our town. But today we realise they were correct. Four rooms in our house have developed cracks,” resident Shanti Chauhan said.

According to the report, Mishra Committee was named after MC Mishra, then Garhwal commissioner in erstwhile Uttar Pradesh. It comprised 18 members. Mishra had directed the team to conduct a ground survey between May 10 and 15 in 1976.

The panel had members from the Army, ITBP, BRO, Shri Kedarnath-Badrinath Temple Committee and the local administration. The committee was mandated to find the cause of landslide and sinking along with both short and long-term remedies with financial implications.

The report, at that time, stated that, “Joshimath lies on an ‘ancient landslide’.” It had strongly prohibited any heavy development works.

… Natural forest cover in Joshimath area has been mercilessly destroyed by a number of agencies…

Another Warning in June 2022

In another report last year, scientists warned that Joshimath, an hour’s drive from Raini where 200 people died in 2021 floods, will sink unless excavation for various developmental works is not stopped immediately.

They added that widening of the 20 km-stretch — between Helong and Marwari — of the all-weather Char Dham road should “only be carried out after state-of-the-art slope treatment”.

According to a Times of India report, the staff was fashioned on the request of native residents who stated they’ve been apprehensive in regards to the space, significantly its land subsidence (sinking of Earth’s floor) and soil creep (mass losing means of soil on a slope) that started in November 2021.

The findings blame a number of infrastructural actions behind points the city is dealing with, together with the Raini flash flood catastrophe.

Experts stated that constructions equivalent to Tapovan-Vishnugad hydro energy plant, Char Dham street and fast urbanisation had been among the many “prime exterior forces supplementing the stress” of an already geographically and ecologically weak landscape.

What the Scientists Suggest

⛈️ Further construction in the area should be made only after examining the stability of the site, and restrictions should be placed on the excavation on slopes.

⛈️ No boulders should be removed either by digging or blasting and no tree should be cut in the landslide zone.

⛈️ Regarding the widening of the Char Dham road, scientists warned, “Except for a small stretch before Tushar Dhara and Chnungi Dhar, where the road is being excavated through hard crystalline rocks, the majority of the 20-km road stretch between Helong and Marwari passes through old landslide deposits…We must find ways to provide stability to areas prone to subsidence.”

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