Over three weeks after NTPC Limited was ordered to construct 2000 temporary, pre-fabricated houses to rehabilitate the evacuated residents of Joshimath — the Himalayan pilgrim town which has been sinking — the power corporation has yet to take any action, a senior government official told The Hindu.
In an order issued on January 5, the Chamoli district administration had directed a halt on all construction activity on NTPC’s power project and the Border Roads Organisation’s Helang-Marwari bypass road, given the concerns that the two projects were worsening the land subsidence or sinking process. The administration had also asked both NTPC and Hindustan Construction Company to prepare 2,000 pre-fabricated homes for the rehabilitation of residents.
“We haven’t received any information from either NTPC or HCC about the temporary huts. The company hasn’t responded to any of our official communication,” said the senior administrative official, who did not wish to be named.
On Thursday, slogans of “NTPC, go back” reverberated in Joshimath town, as hundreds of residents holding the tricolour staged a Republic Day demonstration at the local administration’s office. The protestors – including men, women, and children – demanded immediate closure of the power project owned by the company.
“This company has destroyed our homes, and our land, and is not even ready to participate in any kind of rehabilitation process. We had demanded that the government must ask the NTPC to pay for the entire damage that has been done to Joshimath but the State is only busy giving clean chit to NTPC,” said Atul Sati, convener of the Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, in his public address at Thursday’s protest.
‘NTPC must be held accountable’
The residents of Joshimath have long believed that it was reckless and unplanned blasting done by NTPC that had caused the town to sink.
“This company has created huge infrastructure for its own officials. They are still working at the site. All government is doing is rehabilitating us in badly managed shelter homes. Some money and displacement in the name of rehabilitation will not serve the purpose. The justice to Joshimath can only be served when NTPC will be held accountable for this disaster,” said Sandeep Singh, a protestor.
Scientific survey submitted
Meanwhile, the multi-institutional team constituted to determine the reason for the sinking of the town has submitted its preliminary report to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
“The eight Central technical and scientific institutions surveying Joshimath town to ascertain reasons for the current situation have submitted their preliminary reports to the NDMA,” said Uttarkhand Disaster Management Secretary Ranjit Sinha.
The multi-institutional team consists of experts from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, the Central Building Research Institute, the National Geophysical Research Institute, the Central Ground Water Board, the Geological Survey of India and the National Institute of Hydrology.
Though no new structures have been found damaged in the town over the past 48 hours, the water discharge from the breached aquifer at JPVL Colony has increased once again due to recent rain and snowfall. The discharge, which had gone down to 100 litres per minute by the middle of January, has surged again, hitting a speed of 181 litres per minute on Thursday.
The NTPC did not respond to the queries from The Hindu on the order and its implementation.