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Joshimath construction should be prohibited; report on the Sinking Hill Town

Joshimath, a charming village in Uttarakhand, encountered an unsettling situation in January of this year: the ground beneath it was sinking. It was a disaster waiting to happen and a geological puzzle that required immediate treatment. In response, the Uttarakhand government took a strong action and asked eight federal authorities to investigate the Joshimath land subsidence issue. On a recent Sunday, the public finally received access to the findings from these authorities, which highlighted the gravity of the issue and urged the government to act right away.

Recognizing the Seriousness of the Situation

It’s important to understand the seriousness of the situation before diving into the recommendations offered by these organisations. Joshimath has long been a haven for nature lovers and pilgrims. It is a tranquil hill town tucked away in the Himalayas. However, a catastrophe was developing underneath its serene exterior. The town’s structural integrity as well as the lives of its citizens were seriously threatened by the terrain’s sinking.

Long-term investigation

The formation of committees and the beginning of investigations to ascertain the underlying causes of the subsiding terrain by the Uttarakhand government in January set off alarm bells. But significant material was kept from the public until the Uttarakhand High Court intervened on September 20, when it allowed reports from eight central agencies to be made public.

Recommendations from Central Agencies

Let’s now examine the suggestions made by these governing bodies, which will throw light on the actions required to stop the impending catastrophe.

1. The CBRI, or Central Building Research Institute, in Roorkee

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the CBRI collaborate closely to advocate a risky course of action: the creation of a disaster-resilient model town for the rehabilitation of Joshimath’s displaced residents. In their paper, they stress the necessity of reviewing town planning guidelines for hilly areas, with a particular emphasis on building techniques, materials, and legal frameworks, as well as increasing stakeholder awareness based on geo-technical and geo-climatic circumstances.

2. Board of Central Ground Water (CGWB)

The CGWB points to Joshimath’s placement on loose sediment embedded with sizable stones overlying metamorphic rocks as a crucial element leading to the disaster. They suggest removing any concrete covering the emergence point of springs and immediately stopping building work in the spring zone region to address this issue.

3. The Indian Geological Survey (GSI)

For several areas in Joshimath, the GSI offers a ground-based terrestrial monitoring system. This proactive strategy seeks to identify and address potential problems before they develop into catastrophes.

4. IIT Roorkee (Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee)

IIT Roorkee claims that internal erosion brought on by subsurface drainage appears to be the primary cause of the subsidence. This drainage problem could be caused by things like ice melting, wastewater outflow from homes and hotels, and precipitation infiltration.

5. NIH, the National Institute of Hydrology

The NIH suggests that subsurface conduits may become blocked, causing eruptions when the hydrostatic pressure of accumulated water exceeds the region’s soil-water holding capacity. Their advice focuses on the necessity of giving town garbage and water from the upper reaches top priority for proper disposal.

Geologists had already issued a warning in June 2022 before these findings were even published. They warned of the possibility of a catastrophe in Joshimath in their report, which served as a foreboding prophecy that would soon materialize.

According to the findings from these governing bodies, Joshimath is at a turning point, and the choices made now will decide its course in the future. Joshimath’s loud cry for a construction ban serves as a reminder of the need to take prompt, decisive action.