Joshimath and its surrounding areas have been sinking at the rate of 6.5 cm or 2.5 inch per year, a two-year study by the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing has found. The Dehradu-based institute has been using satellite data of the area, which sees a lot of tectonic activity and is very sensitive.
Joshimath, the temple-town known to be ‘sinking’ for a while, reached a crisis this year as buildings and roads developed massive cracks. Another town 90 km downhill has also started developing cracks. The locals in Joshimath blame the nearby Tapovan project of the National Thermal Power Corporation or NTPC, saying it has aggravated the situation.
Satellite images collected from July 2020 to March 2022 show the entire area is slowly sinking. The red dots mark the sinking parts. They are spread across the Valley and not limited to Joshimath, data shows.
More than 110 families in Joshimath have left their homes and the plan is to evacuate the whole town.
But demolition by bulldozers, which was supposed to begin today, was put on hold after protests from angry locals. Traders and hotel owners of the town — which depends largely on pilgrim traffic — said they had not been informed beforehand.
“If my hotel is being demolished in public interest even though there are partial cracks in it, I am ok with it. But I should have been given a notice,” said Thakur Singh Rana, whose hotel was one of the two to be razed today.
“People have built their homes from hard-earned money but now they have to leave them,” said Ajay Bhatt, the junior minister for defence and MP from Uttarakhand, who has been sent to the state to handle the situation.
“Our priority is to keep everybody safe. PM is constantly monitoring the situation. Officials have been deployed, the Army alerted. Cattle shelters will be made too,” he added.
Besides hotels and business establishments, 678 homes are in danger at the moment and of them, only 87 have been evacuated, the Uttarakhand government has said.
The unfolding disaster is not limited to Joshimath. In Karnaprayag, a town seen as the gateway to Joshimath, residents of one locality — Bahuguna Nagar — have flagged massive cracks that have appeared in at least 50 homes over the last few months.
The Uttarakhand government has said that it will look into the matter.