Joshimath: Residents Blame NTPC Project; 'Tunnel Had Nothing to Do With Sinking,' Says PSU

The Uttarakhand government has declared all nine wards of the Chamoli district town "a land subsidence zone" and thus, unsafe for living.

New Delhi: In Uttarakhand’s Joshimath, where almost every other building has developed cracks amidst concern that the town is sinking, residents have blamed power and road construction projects for their situation. The NTPC Limited, under whose aegis a key project is being run, has evaded blame.

The Hindu has reported that members of the National Disaster Management Authority will visit the town today, January 9, to assess the damage and advise the state government.

On Sunday, January 8, the Prime Minister’s Office held a ‘high-level meeting’ to address the land subsidence situation. The PMO reportedly advised the state government to “establish a clear and continuous communication channel with the residents.”

The government declared all nine wards of Joshimath yesterday “a land subsidence zone” and thus, unsafe for living.

Several reports have noted how Joshimath residents have spent most of their time in the open since the cracks began widening a week ago. The Uttarakhand government has been evacuating them, amidst requests for permanent and alternative housing for the residents.

A resident of the Manohar Bagh locality, 60-year-old Usha, told Hindustan Times, “We are on the verge of losing our identity.”

Usha told the news outlet that she was compelled to vacate the very house that she and her family had built with money earned over several years.


While residents have blamed infrastructure projects – Hindu has reported on residents having demonstrated at the tehsil headquarters on January 8 – NTPC Limited’s 4×130 megawatt Tapovan Vishnugad hydel project stopped work on January 5.

Indian Express has reported that the company has claimed that its 12.1-kilometre tunnel had “nothing to do” with the latest land subsidence.

“The tunnel built by NTPC does not pass under Joshimath town. This tunnel is dug by a tunnel boring machine and no blasting is being carried out presently,” the NTPC said in a statement.

However, the Express report notes that the company has a history of “breaches” and listed incidents where such ingressions occurred, with emphasis on one such situation in 2019.

The Hindu report quotes Atul Sati, convener of the Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, as having said that residents had issued warnings on this years ago.

“We had warned years back that NTPC’s work is going to get this town to sink. No one paid heed. Look at the situation of Joshimath now,” he added.

The Telegraph has reported that the Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (Joshimath) has petitioned the Supreme Court to “protect the ancient religious city” and expressed a lack of confidence in the state government.

“There are BJP governments at the Centre and in Uttarakhand but neither is bothered about the city and its people,” Swami Avimukteshwaranand told reporters.

In addition, environmental concerns over the contentious 825-km Char Dham highway have been voiced by experts several times. In 2021, the Supreme Court had dismissed these, citing national security.

An analysis for The Wire by Kavitha Upadhyay had quoted geologist C.P. Rajendran as having said, “Cutting hills for wider roads will only destabilise them further.”

Other residents told Hindu that they have been complaining about cracks for nearly a year. The administration, which had ignored such complaints, allegedly became active only after its own building started developing cracks.

Cracks have also appeared on roads and trekking routes now.

Similar fissures and sinking complaints have come from Karnaprayag, 80 kilometres from Joshimath.