PM Modi promises full assistance in the “landslide-subsidence zone” he designated in Joshimath.

The safety of the locals in Joshimath, which has experienced land subsidence, was determined to be the top concern in a high-level meeting organised by the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday afternoon. Senior state government officials reportedly received advice from the PMO to build a direct and ongoing communication line with the populace.

Senior Central government and Uttarakhand state officials, as well as top officers from organisations like the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Geological Survey of India (GSI), and the National Institute of Hydrology (NIH), were instructed to adopt a “whole of government” approach and work together to contain the situation, conduct ongoing seismic monitoring, and prepare a time-bound recon. The meeting was presided over by Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister P K Mishra.

At Joshimath, those whose homes are gradually “sinking” wait with their possessions for evacuation. (PTI)

According to a PMO statement, affected families are being relocated to secure areas. Prime Minister Modi is concerned and has discussed the situation with Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami. As soon as Joshimath was identified as a region affected by landslides and subsidence, relief and rescue activities there were stepped up. Given the vulnerable environment in the area, the Center also commissioned specialists to draught short- and long-term plans for conservation and rehabilitation.

The Union Cabinet Secretary, Union Home Secretary, several senior Central government officials, and members of NDMA attended the meeting that the PMO summoned. Through video conference, the Director General of Police for Uttarakhand, the Chief Secretary, Joshimath district officials, and specialists from IIT Roorkee, the National Institute of Disaster Management, and the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology joined.

“Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Sukhbir Singh Sandhu briefed the officials in the meeting that state and district officials, with the assistance of Central specialists, analysed the situation on the ground and determined that a strip of land with a width of around 350 metres is affected. He also stated that impacted people are being relocated to safe areas, and the state government had also approved Rs 1 crore from the CM’s Relief Fund, which will mostly be utilised to assist affected families with paying their rent, according to an official.

Officials from the state government said that the administration evacuated 13 more families who were residing in homes with large cracks to safe areas on Sunday. 68 families have now been relocated to temporary relief centres, according to the Chamoli district disaster management office. Press Trust of India reports that there are now 610 cracking houses in the town, up from 561 previously.

A man displays the fractures that developed at his Joshimath home. (PTI)

Four State Disaster Response Force teams and one National Disaster Response Force team have already arrived in Joshimath. The affected families are being assisted by the district government in evacuation and relocation to safer locations with suitable food, housing, and security provisions. The SDRF Commandment and SP are posted there. Residents of Joshimath are being notified of the changes, and the official requested their cooperation.

In Joshimath, two hotels were shut down after discovering that one of the structures was leaning toward the other. (File Photo)

“Following the discussion, it was also ordered that the Secretary, Border Management, and representatives of the National Disaster Management Authority visit Uttarakhand on Monday to evaluate the situation. The technical teams from the NDMA, NIDM, NDRF, GSI, NIH, Wadia Institute, and IIT Roorkee will be thoroughly analysed, and they will advise the state government on immediate, short-medium-long-term activities to address the situation, the official added.

On Sunday, January 8, 2023, landslides cause a structure to tilt in the Chamoli area of Joshimath. (PTI)

The safety of the residents of the impacted area should be the state’s top priority right away, PM’s Principal Secretary Mishra emphasised during the meeting. “The state administration should open up a direct line of communication with the impacted citizens. The immediate focus should be on taking any practicable steps that may be possible to stop the situation from getting worse. The impacted area should be the subject of an interdisciplinary study, the source said.

In the spirit of a “whole of government” approach, Mishra also requested that professionals from a number of national institutions, including the NDMA, NIDM, GSI, IIT Roorkee, WIHG, NIH, and CBRI, collaborate closely with the state of Uttarakhand. It is necessary to create a precise, time-bound reconstruction strategy. There must be ongoing seismic monitoring. A risk-sensitive urban development plan for Joshimath should also be created using this opportunity, the official suggested.

Landslides cause a building to lean in the Uttarakhand district of Joshimath, Chamoli. There is terror around the city as cracks have begun to develop in the houses. The government is moving the residents. (PTI)

The Union Earth Sciences Ministry’s various agencies have only so far been able to actively monitor earthquakes of a magnitude of 3.5 or above. They also monitor seismic activity and natural disasters around the nation. It is probable that it will expand its reach to cover all earthquake-prone regions, including those where smaller earthquakes and tremors frequently happen. The Ministry, which has not yet been keeping an eye on Joshimath, is probably going to start doing so soon. Additionally, it will improve mapping and micro-zonation in these areas. The Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority, scientists from IIT Roorkee, the National Institute of Hydrology Roorkee, the Geographical Survey of India Dehradun, and the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology Dehradun have been asked to submit a report to the Center by tonight. A central team is anticipated to visit Joshimath over the coming days.

At Vishnupuram Marwari Colony in Joshimath, Uttarakhand, on Friday, January 6, 2023, water seeps out of gaps that landslides caused in the homes. (PTI)

“We have advised the PMO that, although further research and inquiry are needed in the Joshimath case, it currently appears that a number of circumstances contributed to the sinking. These include the fact that the location was already vulnerable, that it was in seismic zone V, that it was on a slope, that the soil was loose, and that it had recently experienced stress from climatic and non-climatic sources. This includes expected landslides, severe erosion in the area, and climatic changes that have caused high rains. Of course, anthropogenic activity like the expansion of structures and drainage are also present. It’s also plausible that the 6.8-magnitude Chamoli earthquake from 1999 is still releasing energy in the area, according to a different official.

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