Eight institutes from Uttarakhand will study and analyse the reasons behind the land subsidence in the temple town of Joshimath located in the Chamoli district of the hill state. Life has fallen completely off track for the hundreds of families residing in the town ever since several houses and roads developed huge cracks over the past few days.
While locals blame the 12-kilometre-long tunnel connected to the Tapovan Vishnugad hydroelectric project of the power generation company National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) for their troubles, the Uttarakhand government led by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has now decided to ascertain the reasons behind the Joshimath subsidence.
At a cabinet meeting chaired by the chief minister on Friday, it was decided that eight institutes will investigate the cause of subsidence in the Himalayan town and also check the carrying capacity of all hilly areas in the state.
Chaos descended upon the quiet hill town of Joshimath as locals stepped out on the streets demanding action over the cracks that have developed in the ir houses since early this month. The government has said that a total of 99 families have been evacuated from Joshimath and a compensation of Rs 1.5 lakh given to each family whose houses, shops or businesses have been affected due to to the subsidence.
“We have shifted 99 families from Joshimath so far and Rs 1.5 Lakh ex-gratia is being given. Assessment for rehabilitation is underway and we’re making key decisions for future,” Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami said after the meeting. We have not demolished any houses so far and survey team is present over there,” Dhami said speaking to the media after the cabinet meeting.
Two hotels were dismantled on Thursday as hundreds of structures in the town developed cracks. The action was disrupted earlier as locals protestsed demanding better compensation. Locals overwhelmingly blame the NTPC project in the area for their plight.
On Friday, satellite images released by the Indian Space Research Organisation showed that Joshimath sank 5.4 cm in a period of 12 days in January. According to PTI, the satellite images of Joshimath town, taken from the Cartosat-2S satellite, showed that it sank 5.4 cm between December 27, 2022 and January 8, 2023.
On the contrary, a preliminary study by ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) said the land subsidence was slow between April and November 2022, during which Joshimath sank by 8.9 cm.
However, Uttarakhand minister Dhan Singh Rawat said that the premier space agency has not said anything officially on the current crisis. “I have spoken with the ISRO Director. They have accepted that this is not their official take. They will give their official take today on the current situation,” Rawat said.
On Thursday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah assessed the situation in Joshimath in a meeting with Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, R K Singh, Bhupendra Yadav, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and top officials in attendance.
Uttarakhand Disaster Management Secretary Ranjit Kumar Sinha said yesterday that a total of 169 families consisting of 589 members have so far been shifted to relief centres.
The NTPC, however, has denied the allegations that the tunnel work being carried out by the power generation company is responsible for the current crisis. “The tunnel built by NTPC does not pass under Joshimath town. This tunnel is dug by a tunnel boring machine (TBM) and no blasting is being carried out presently,” NTPC said in a statement on January 5.
Work on the tunnel has been on hold since February 2021 when a glacial flood hit the project.