Joshimath: Over 280 More Buildings Develop Cracks; 15 Damaged Houses to Be Demolished

Water discharge – which may have played a role in the subsidence – has reduced in Joshimath, said authorities.

New Delhi: Over 280 more buildings in Joshimath, Uttarakhand, have developed cracks, according to an update by the Chamoli district authorities, news reports said, taking the total number of affected buildings in the city to 849.

Fifteen completely damaged houses in J.P. Nagar would be demolished, news agency PTI reported, quoting authorities.

At least four wards, or municipal areas, in the district were also declared as ‘completely unsafe’ by authorities, and all other wards were found to be partially affected by land subsidence, as per news agency ANI.

However, water discharge – which may have played a role in the subsidence – has reduced in Joshimath, and this is “positive news”, claimed Ranjit Kumar Sinha, disaster management secretary.

On January 18, Wednesday, ANI quoted him as saying that one of the wards was declared unsafe in Gandhinagar, two in Singhdhar, five in Manoharbagh, and seven in Sunil in Joshimath town.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami met home minister Amit Shah in New Delhi to request for financial assistance for rehabilitation and other related work from the Union government.

Geology to blame?

Land subsidence in Joshimath was caused by hydrostatic pressure as well as continuous base-erosion in the Alaknanda river after the Chamoli floods of 2021, the New Indian Express quoted scientists, who conducted an official study on the Joshimath land subsidence but did not want to named, as saying. The water from the sinking land has flowed into the Alakananda and with the ground subsequently drying up, subsidence will decrease, as per the news report.

The Union government had appointed a team of scientists from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, National Institute of Hydrology, IIT Roorkee, Geological Survey of India, and several other institutes in the country to conduct a study.

Also read: Uncontrolled Construction, Ignored Warnings: How Joshimath Sank

On January 18, Sinha also gave similar information. Water discharge in Joshimath has presently reduced from 540 litres per minute to 100 LPM, he said, calling this “positive news”. The study report by the scientists would also be made available at the earliest, he said. The Union government has already set separate deadlines for the study reports from each of the institutes, PTI had reported on Tuesday.

A recent study, currently a pre-print to be published soon in the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences that mapped landslides along a 247-kilometre stretch of the Rishikesh-Joshimath road had also found that there are 1.3 landslides for every kilometer of the road. The stretch will be more vulnerable to landslides due to the continued removal of vegetation and destabilising of slopes, it found.

Tunnel has no link to subsidence: NTPC

Meanwhile, the ongoing land subsidence has no link with the NTPC’s work, an NTPC official told ANI.

“Land subsidence is an old issue here and this tunnel (an NTPC project) has no connection with it. This 12-km tunnel is dug by a boring machine,” ANI quoted Bhuvnesh Kumar, additional general manager (geology), NTPC, as saying.

“Presently, no blasting is being done in this tunnel and water has also not been filled in it. If (land) subsidence would’ve happened due to it, it would’ve affected the tunnel first. There’s no possibility of land subsidence due to this tunnel,” he added.

This comes at a time when both residents and experts have alleged that the tunneling and blasting activities by the NTPC in the area are also responsible for the land subsidence in Joshimath.

That NTPC’s activities have no link to the subsidence in Joshimath is a stand that the NTPC has maintained ever since the news was covered by media houses since early January. Last week, the Ministry of Power also held that the NTPC tunnel does not pass under the town and that other factors including seepage erosion caused by natural drainage and increased construction activities could be the main causes of subsidence.

With the Joshimath land subsidence affecting so many buildings, the issue of cracks that developed in 2021 in the houses in Marora village in Uttarakhand – through which the under-construction Rishikesh-Karnaprayag railway line passes – has also resurfaced.

Locals here are still upset about the concern, which first emerged in 2021, as per news reports. According to them, the cutting of slopes for the railway line has caused the cracks on their houses to appear. As per the Times of India, officials told villagers on Monday that the district administration has received Rs 21 crore as part of compensation from the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited and will soon be distributed to the affected parties.