Many towns and villages face uncertain future due to subsidence, landslides
Dehradun, Jan 17
The rapid subsidence of Joshimath has again brought to the fore the uncertain future and possible ruin faced by many of the towns and even villages due to problems of subsidence and landslides.
After the tragedy of Joshimath, people suffering due to the damage to their hearths and home shave become vocal and seeking rehabilitation and relief at many places in the state. While the havoc at many places is played out by the nature but in many most of the cases it has been man- made.
The construction of hydro-electric projects and tunnels, laying of 126 km long Rishokesh-Karanprayag railway line which would traverse the distance mostly in tunnels, much hyped All Weather Char Dham road, unbridled, unscientific and unplanned urbanisation has compounded the problem in the eco-sensitive Himalayan state which is situated in active seismic zone.
Many areas in the famous hill stations of Mussoorie, Nainital are facing subsidence of earth. Urbanisation for pure commercial purposes has become a bane for these famous hill stations since the formation of Uattarakhand state in 2000. Experts had warned against haphazard construction in Nainital since the town is situated already on a landslide and land in the area of hanuman vatika area is sinking fast.
Since the formation of Uttarakhand and even before, the region has witnessed frequent natural disasters claiming lives and destroying homes in earthquakes, landslides, cloudbursts and flash floods. In the worst deluge at kedarnath in 2013, more than 5000 pilgrims and tourists lost their lives while unprecedented destruction took places of the infrastructure throughout the state. In 2021, more than 300 people lost their lives in natural disasters in the state particularly at Raini village in Chamoli district where more than 200 persons lost lives in flash floods caused by a hydro-electric project.
More than 50 houses in karanprayag town on the banks of river Alaknanda had developed cracks and 27 of them are dangerous for use. The state administration has identified these damaged houses and promised to pay compensation to the owners on the lines of Joshimath. The subsidence of soil is reported in the area since the natural disaster of June 2013.
The people of Srinagar town are also up in arms against damage caused to their houses in Hydel mohalla, Asish Vihar and Nursery Road areas. They allege that due to blasting being done for the tunnel, more than 30 houses have developed cracks.
More than 50 houses were destroyed when Bhagirathi river which flows below Bhatwari town of Uttarakashi cut into the soil. These sufferers are yet to be rehabilitated since 2010. A total of 228 houses having 235 families in Bhatwari, 27 buildings having 42 families in dunda,89 houses with 196 families in Chinyalisaur one building with a family at Badkot and 146 house having 266 families needed immediate rehabilitation due to damage to houses in Uttarkashi district alone. A geological survey conducted by the state government ruled that these houses are inhabitable. The land is also sinking at Narayanabagar market on Karanprayag-Gwaldam highway affecting shops and even homes.
The victims of land subsidence and resultant damage to houses in 17 villages around Tehri Lake following rise in water level of the lake in 2010-11 have not been rehabilitated. After a geological survey 415 affected families were identified and the process of rehabilitation started in 2021. In the meanwhile, 214 families have only been rehabilitated.
Many villages in Rudraprayag district are also facing the same fate. With the situation in Joshimath becoming grave with each passing day and similar reports pouring in from many parts of the state, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, has ordered technical survey of all the hill towns and cities. He announced that technical and scientific survey of all the towns and cities of hills would be done to know the bearing capacity of these towns and cities and construction activities would be banned if these cross the limits.
Ten shops and Six houses in Dharchula town of Pithoragarh district on Indo-Nepal border were hit by huge landslides from Aildhara hills overlooking the town in August-Sepetmber 2021 . Apart from landslides, the residents of Dharchula are alsofearing flash floods if the flood protection wall along river kali which forms border between India and Nepal is not constructed before monsoon rains. The state government has identified 465 villages for relocation till 2021, however, only 1100 families in 44 villages have been relocated.
The people of Kharbagad village of Kapkot tehsil of Bageshwar district who had been facing threat from subsidence blame it on a tunnel of a hydro-electric project in their area.
Kharbagad village of Badet Gram Panchayat comprising of two hamlet namely ‘Palla Khar’ and “Valla Khar” have 40 families. A hill near Palla Khar had cracked in the year 2013 disaster. Now every year during monsoon period there is danger of further subsidence of earth since water is seeping in. During the monsoon, the villagers even leave the village for the safety of their lives.
“The names of the affected families from Kharbagad village are included in the rehabilitation list and the condition of the village will be reviewed soon after inspecting it,” said Anuradha Pal, District Magistrate, Bageshwar.
The hydroelectric project started in the year 2013, from the same year the area has came under threat. The danger has increased after the tunnel was made by cutting the hill. “ Nearly a 3,000 people are in possible danger,” said Harish Aithani, a former District Panchayat, President, Bageshwar.
After facing the calamity of 2013, the villagers are waiting for the help of the administration. “If Badet, Khaibagad, Timila Bagad and Kanuti areas are not taken care of immediately, then no one can stop the situation from getting worse,” Vandana Aithani, District Panchayat Member, Badet, Bageshwar.
( with inputs from Prem Prakash Upadhyay. Bageshwar )