Residents of sinking Joshimath town block Badrinath highway to protest govt. inaction
S. M. A. KAZMI
Dehradun , Jan 5
The situation at Joshimath a small beautiful town perched at a height of 6000 feet in the hill district of Chamoli in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand has become precarious following sinking and appearance of large cracks in the buildings. These cracks are increasing with each passing day makingthe residents of the hill town panicky.
The residents of the town blocked the Badrinath highway today in protest against the inaction of the state government towards their plight. The residents charge that despite the havoc and despair triggered by the sinking of the town, the response of the state government has been disappointing. Seeking immediate remedial steps and rehabilitation of the affected residents, they blocked the traffic on the Badrinath national highway. Nearly 30 families residing in houses with massive cracks have been shifted by the administration to safer buildings.
Atul Sati, convenor of the Joshimath Bacchao Sanghrash Samiti alleged that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government has been indulging in petty politics instead of taking bold initiatives to mitigate the sufferings of the people who are living on the edge as their houses are on the verge of virtual collapse.
He charged that a delegation of people of the town went to apprise the Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami about the grave situation of the town led by local Congress legislator Rajinder Bhandari . Atul Sati alleged that the Chief Minister did not listen to them and even didnot ask them to sit and dismissed the delegation within a minute. “ Probably, the ruling BJP government was unhappy with the people of Joshimath,” he added. The residents in a representation to the Disaster management Secretary has demanded immediate relief and rehabilitation of the affected families and long term solution of the problem.
The town is gateway for Badrinath, Auli, Hemkund Sahib & UNESCO World Heritage site of Valley of Flowers and also holds strategic importance with the presence of substantial numbers of army personnel stationed in the region.
Himanshu Khurana, District Magistrate, Chamoli visited the town on December 27,2022 and ordered construction of a one and half kilometre long protection wall along river Alaknanda to stop soil erosion. He also visited the houses and buildings which are sinking or have developed wide cracks. He ordered the officials of the Irrigation department to prepare a drainage plan for the town at the earliest.
It has been a matter extreme alarm and concern for the more than 20,000 residents of the town and other concerned citizens of the state that homes, hotels, resorts and buildings on some parts of Joshimath have seen cracks in the walls and ceilings. This has resulted in a state of panic for town residents who had formed a committee to highlight the issue and demand immediate measures to safeguard the hearths and homes.
A total of 561 houses have developed cracks making it dangerous for the residents to live in these buildings. The residents alleged that the construction of a tunnel of 520 MW Tapovan-Vishnugad Hydro-electric project and a bye-pass being built as part of Badrinath highway could be the possible reason for the sinking of the town. However, the NTPC officials deny that the tunnel which was shifted to one kilometre away from the town has anything to do with the present situation.
Joshimath has had a history of sinking with the Mishra Committee reporting this the first time in 1976. The sinkings have exacerbated in recent months prompting the state government to constitute a committee of experts from the Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority (USDMA), CBRI Roorkee, IIT Roorkee, Wadia Institute, Dehradun and the Geological Survey of India. The expert committee that was tasked to undertake geological & geotechnical investigations had visited Joshimath in August this year and found that the town was built on an unstable foundation which can give way in case of heavy rains, tremors, unregulated construction or far more footfalls than the towns carrying capacity.
The team attributed the sinking to the numerous homes, hotels and resorts that have mushroomed on Joshimath-Auli route. Poor drainage, sewage and erosion by rivers have aggravated the situation.
In the recent flashpoint, a key stretch of the key Joshimath-Helang highway has caved in with several hotels & homes also developing fresh cracks. Alarmed and panicked, this has prompted the citizens and local businesses to protest against the sinking of the town.
Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has announced formation of a 14 member committee of his party to look into the issue and said that he himself will go to Joshimath soon.