Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Uttarakhand: 11 More Families Evacuated As Cracks Develop In Joshimath, People Blame Govt Construction, Drilling

Uttarakhand: 11 More Families Evacuated As Cracks Develop In Joshimath, People Blame Govt Construction, Drilling

The latest round of evacuation took the number of families moved to safety to 603. Joshimath has been labelled as the 'sinking town' as cracks develop.

Dhami orders immediate evacuation of 600 families in Joshimath
Dhami orders immediate evacuation of 600 families in Joshimath Photo: PTI

Eleven more families were evacuated to safety in Uttarakhand's safety as cracks continue to develop in houses through the town. 

The latest round of evacuation took the number of families moved to safety to 603. Joshimath has been labelled as the "sinking town" as cracks develop in houses in the twon and people are being forced to leave for safety concerns. 

Chamoli District Disaster Management Officer NK Joshi said the number of families who have so far been evacuated stands at 65 with another 11 moving to temporary relief camps on Saturday from houses that had developed cracks.

Uttrakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited Joshimath on Saturday to assess the situation on the ground, a day after he directed immediate evacuation of around 600 affected families. He also visited houses in which huge cracks have appeared on the walls and ceilings.

There is great resentment among Joshimath residents against the government for ignornig their ealier warnings regarding such a crisis. They hold the NTPC's Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project mainly responsible for the situation. 

What we know of Joshimath crcks so far?

Cracks have appeared at several places in Joshimath in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district. There are also reports of landslides.

It has also been reported that new water sources have appeared at several placs from the cracks.

Some hotels in the area have also tilted as parts have sunk into the ground.

"Officials said the disaster management department is conducting surveys at locations where new cracks have developed. Some hotels in the area have tilted onto other buildings and new water sources have emerged in places, they said," reported The Indian Express. 

Residents as well as the Opposition have blamed the unplanned construction in the delecate Himalayan region for the current crisis. 

Joshimath area in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district falls in the seismic zone 5, the most serious zone, as per a seismic map of Uttarakhand on state government's website. 

"Zone V is seismically the most active region, while zone II is the least. Approximately, ~ 11% area of the country falls in zone V, ~18% in zone IV, ~ 30% in zone III and remaining in zone II," said the Ministry of Earth Science in 2021.

Residents blame unplanned construction, drilling

Joshimath residents hold the NTPC's Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project mainly responsible for the situation. 

An activist said the issue was being raised for 14 months but no attention was paid.

Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti Convenor Atul Sati said, "We have been drawing the attention of authorities for the past 14 months. But we were not heeded. Now when the situation is getting out of hand, they are sending expert teams to assess things. If attention was paid in time to what we were saying things would not have been so alarming in Joshimath."

Sati said land subsidence had made the houses of 14 families insecure in November 2021 itself.

Sati said that people held a demonstration following this at the tehsil office on November 16, 2021 demanding rehabilitation and handed a memorandum to the SDM who acknowledged that even the tehsil office premises had developed cracks . 

"If the government was aware of the problem why didn't it act for more than a year to address it?  What does that show?" Sati asked.

Sati said that under the pressure of people immediate steps have been taken like temporary stopping of the NTPC's Tapovan-Vishnugad project and construction of Helang-Marwari bypass but they are not a permanent solution.

"The threat to Joshimath's existence will persist until these projects are stalled permanently," Sati said. 

Former Dharmadhikari of Badrinath temple Bhuvan Chandra Uniyal also holds the manner in which the NTPC works for the cracks. 

"The tunnel of Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project is located right beneath Joshimath. Big boring machines were brought for its construction which have been stuck in the ground for the past two decades. 

Tons of explosives are used on a daily basis for the tunnel's construction. Land subsidence gained momentum on January 3 due to large amount of explosives used by the NTPC. 

Uniyal is also angry with the NTPC for breaking its promise made to people. 

"The NTPC had earlier said that construction of the tunnel won't harm the houses of Joshimath. The company had even promised to do insurance of the infrastructure in town. It would have benefited the people. But it did not keep its word," he said.  

"We should be told on the basis of  scientific facts what is the future of Joshimath. Is it inhabitable or not. If yes, for how long. If not, then the government should take our land and homes and rehabilitate us or else we would lay down our lives on it," Uniyal said.

Continuous digging, unplanned construction led to Joshimath crisis: Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has also criticised the government for the Joshimath crisis. 

Rahul said on social media in Hindi, "The pictures coming from Joshimath in Uttarakhand are horrifying...I am deeply disturbed. Wide cracks in houses, seepage of water, cracks in the ground and subsidence of roads are a matter of great concern...A landslide caused the Bhagwati temple to collapse. Going against nature by continuous digging and unplanned construction on the mountains has led to the people of Joshimath facing a terrible crisis today." 

Rahul called upon the Uttarakhand government to "take care of people in this harsh weather and arrange for their immediate rehabilitation and ensure the safety of the temple".

He said, "In this bitter cold, this calamity has taken away the homes of people.  I appeal to all the Congress workers there to help the people at the earliest and take them to safe places."

Saving lives is our first priority: CM Dhami

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited Joshimath and inspected the situation. He said saving lives is the first priority.

Dhami also said that procedural hurdles should not cause any delays and all approvals should be sought directly from him.

He said, "Saving lives is our first priority. Officials have been asked to shift around 600 families living in endangered houses in Joshimath to safe locations. We are also working on short and long-term plans to address the situation in Joshimath

"Lives of our citizens are most important for us. Joshimath should be divided into sectors and zones and action should be taken accordingly. A disaster control room should also be set up in the town. Moving people to safe locations is necessary. Satellite images can also be useful in this. All departments should act with a team spirit to achieve success in the exercise. Joshimath is a town of religious and cultural importance. Care should be taken to ensure that the livelihoods of people are not affected."

(With PTI inputs)