Joshimath Crisis Explained: 4 reasons why the Himalayan town is sinking; Know what’s happening under the ground | The Financial Express

Joshimath Crisis Explained: 4 reasons why the Himalayan town is sinking; Know what’s happening under the ground

Joshimath crisis: Wondering what’s happening beneath the ground of Joshimath? Here’s why the Himalayan town is sinking.

Joshimath, why is Joshimath sinking, Joshimath crisis, Joshimath news, Joshimath death, what is Joshimath crisis, reason behind Joshimath, himalaya, Joshimath news important, Joshimath live updates
A temple collapses after the gradual 'sinking' of Joshimath in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, in Joshimath, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (PTI Photo)

The Himalayan town of Joshimath is on the verge of extinction. The residents are requesting the government to help as they are being forced to sleep outdoors in the freezing cold in fear of an imminent collapse of their houses – many have developed huge cracks.

If things are not controlled, Nainital, Dharchula, Mussoorie, and several other towns in Uttarakhand might face a similar situation soon.

Where is Joshimath? 

Joshimath, a hill station in Uttarakhand, is an important pilgrimage destination. It is located on the side of a hill in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.

Wondering what’s happening beneath the ground of Joshimath? Here’s why the Himalayan town is sinking.

While haphazard and unorganized construction activities, which have been going on in the area for a long time are suggested as the main cause behind the crisis, take a look at a few reasons mentioned by experts and locals behind the sinking of the iconic town:

National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) Tapovan Vishnugad Hydro Power Project:

As per geologists, Joshimath will be at risk if the under-construction National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Tapovan Vishnugad Hydro Power Project is not shelved. The plant, constructed on the Dhauliganga River in the Chamoli District of Uttarakhand, is expected to generate over 2.5 TWh of electricity annually.

Anthropogenic activities:

Not just natural factors but also several anthropogenic activities have led to the subsidence of Joshimath. Kalachand Sain, Director of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology said, “Hotels and restaurants have mushroomed everywhere. The pressure of population and the size of the crowd of tourists has also increased manifold,” he said. He also suggested that many houses in Joshimath are expected to collapse and residents have been asked to shift to safer locations.

Withdrawal of water:

The phenomenon takes place when large amounts of groundwater have been withdrawn from certain types of rocks, such as fine-grained sediments, USGS suggested.  The rock compacts because the water is partly responsible for holding the ground up. When the water is withdrawn, the rocks fall in on themselves.

Fragile ecosystem and seismic zone:

Another reason can be Joshimath’s location in seismic zone V which is more prone to earthquakes. The gradual weathering and water percolation reduce the cohesive strength of the rocks over time. As per a study by Mishra Committee in 1976, Joshimath, situated on an old landslide zone, could sink if development continued unabated. “Joshimath is a deposit of sand and stone — it is not the main rock — hence it was not suitable for a township. Vibrations produced by blasting, heavy traffic, etc., will lead to a disequilibrium in natural factors,” a report submitted by the 18-member committee said.

What are the effects? 

As per news reports, cracks have appeared in 559 houses in Joshimath, and roads and fields have also been similarly affected. That’s not all, the poles of high-tension power lines are also becoming slanted. The people living in the hilly town have told that malt and apple trees have started to collapse and people are scared to sleep inside their houses amid the freezing cold. While the residents are evacuating their houses, they are also protesting and demanding for permanent rehabilitation from the state government. That’s not all, they also want construction work in the area to immediately stop – including the ongoing Char Dham yatra.

What’s next? 

Surveys are already being carried out and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami assured that the disaster management team has been alerted and arrangements for the security of residents were being made.

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

First published on: 10-01-2023 at 09:14 IST