Joshimath ‘land-sinking’: Chief Secretary orders to demolish all dilapidated buildings immediately

District administration has rehabilitated 81 families so far, even as uncertainty clouds residents being removed from house they have lived in for generations

January 10, 2023 01:13 am | Updated 09:17 am IST - Joshimath

Large cracks on the walls and roads leading to Vishnupuram in Uttarakhand.

Large cracks on the walls and roads leading to Vishnupuram in Uttarakhand. | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

Uttarakhand Chief Secretary S.S. Sandhu on Monday ordered the immediate demolition of buildings that have developed cracks and are badly damaged in the alleged land subsidence in Joshimath town. As per the data of district administration, 678 houses and other establishments across the revered town are damaged. A total of 81 families have been rehabilitated by the district administration since January 4.

“To prevent erosion, we need to start work on war-footing note. For this, we should plan to demolish the establishments that are damaged badly so that they don’t harm the other nearby buildings,” Mr. Sandhu said during the review meeting at district secretariat in Dehradun.

Also read | Joshimath declared landslide-subsidence zone

The orders by the government were not welcomed by the residents of Joshimath town, which is also known as the gateway of Badrinath temple.

“I was born in this house. My great grandfather has established a temple of goddess here. How can I just see it get demolished?” Prem Singh Tamta, whose house was categorised in the ‘danger’ category, asked on Sunday.

His family was asked to vacate the house, after which the district administration placed a ‘cross’ mark on its walls, as a sign of danger. He said that he could only pick up some woollen clothes before moving to a rehabilitation centre with his wife.

“What will happen to the stuff we have in our homes? Will the government pay for our appliances? Where we will go?,” asked V.B. Pandey, a fellow resident displaced by the evacuation.

Meanwhile, the protest continued in Joshimath on Monday as well. The residents claimed that merely banning the construction work won’t help the situation.

Also read | SC allows plea on Joshimath ‘land-sinking’ to be mentioned for early hearing on January 10

Commenting on the reasons for the present situation of Joshimath, Kalachand Sain, director of the Dehradun-based Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG) told The Hindu that both anthropogenic as well as natural factors are responsible for the same. He added that the current focus should be on the rehabilitation of the affected people but the town needs detailed and extensive planning to ensure its existence in the long run.

“Joshimath town was developed on the debris landslide materials triggered by an earthquake, centuries ago. The region has been witnessing gradual sinking for a long time as it’s situated on a seismic zone,” Mr. Sain said, adding that the sinking of the town is not immediate but a gradual process.

The senior scientist added that the situation here must have been aggregated after the calamity in Raini village in 2021.

“But I would suggest that [instead of] focusing on reasons, immediate rehabilitation should be the priority. The rehabilitation should accompany the planning of sewage and drainage disposal system as the town is getting extraordinary crowd throughout the year and hence the hotels and other establishments have also started mushrooming,” he said.

Navin Juyal, former member of the Supreme Court High Power Committee set up for assessment of environmental and sociological aspects of the Center’s ambitious Char Dham all-weather road, however, was of the opinion that the Tapovan-Vishnugad Hydropower Project and the Helang Bypass road by the Border Road Organisation (BRO) should be shelved immediate. He attributed these projects as the prime reason for the present danger.

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