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The Sinking City of India: Joshimath

Joshimath is a small town in Chamoli District in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Located at 6,150 feet, it has several Himalayan ranges, climbing expeditions, and pilgrims like Badrinath. One of the four pithas was established by Adi Shankara.

Uttarakhand (officially known as Uttaranchal till 2007), also known as DevBhoomi (Land of the Gods), is an Indian state formed on November 9, 2000, as the 27th state of India. It was carved out of northern Uttar Pradesh.

In 2021, Uttarakhand was severely affected by floods. Joshimath town got severely affected by the flood. This town is confirmed to be sinking because of its geographical location along a running ridge.

The Glacier Outburst Flood

On February 7, 2021, a part of the Nanda Devi glacier was broken in Nanda Devi National Park, which caused flash floods in the Rishiganga and Dhauliganga rivers, along with damage to Rini village, Dhauliganga Dam, Rishi Ganga Dam, and Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower Plant, killing many people at the time.

The aftereffects of the flood have caused many problems in the state. Residents had noticed cracks in homes. A local temple collapsed, after which around 600 people were evacuated. Even the streets and pavement showed cracks in the affected areas.

Many people have been safely evacuated from those areas.

In 2021, the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing revealed a climate study in Joshimath. Shockingly, areas in and around Joshimath are sinking 6.5 cm each year.

According to the study, Joshimath is experiencing a geological phenomenon known as "land subsidence." It is a slow surface lowering brought on by groundwater extraction, oil, gas, or mineral resources.

Natural events such as earthquakes, soil compaction, erosion, sinkhole formation, and water infusion into fine soils can cause subsidence.

The people living in the village saw the cracks nearly a year ago. They have been informing the authorities since then. Now, the situation is hazardous, and people are demanding the rehabilitation of the whole village.

Built on an ancient landslide site, Joshimath has always been a fragile and low-bearing capacity village. The current problem is also the result of the haphazard dam, tunnel, and road construction.

Every year, lakhs and lakhs of people visit the holy shrine of Badrinath. Experts have attributed the rapid increase in construction activities in the area to the widening of the Char Dham Yatra road and the National Highway 7.

Along with the roads, more hotels came in, the mountains were cleaned up, and greenery started declining from the hills. During heavy rains in past years, water got deposited on the surface, which led to land subsidence.

However, because no solid rocks were beneath, the water seeped into the soil and loosened it from within. The region has remained on edge, with the top surface of the ground already gone due to intensive construction.

The two rivers, Dhauliganga and the Alaknanda have survived two times; the influence of the glacial outbursts led to the deposit of sediments, which resulted in erosion in the village.

Along with Joshimath village, many other towns down the hill- Nainital, Champawat, and Uttarkashi experience the same problems.

The administration assists residents whose homes have been destroyed to relocate to municipal buildings, primary schools, gurudwaras, and lodges. But still, the question arises, "Is Joshimath still safe for everyone?"

According to the most recent bulletin, issued on January 9, 2023, arrangements have been made to provide temporary housing to 1,191 people in Joshimath and 2,205 people in nearby Pipalkoti.

Himanshu Khurana, the Chamoli district magistrate, announced on Twitter that families displaced by the natural disaster would receive Rs 4,000 per month from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund for six months. In addition, 46 disaster-affected families in Joshimath will be given Rs 5,000 each to purchase essential household items, with a total of Rs 2.30 lakh set aside for the purpose. The authorities also supply the needy with dry ration kits and cooked food packets.

The rehabilitation of residents is increasing day by day. It is a call for an emergency, and people are scared of staying there. I hope the government will take serious action in favor of the people by acting fast on the rehab process.

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