The Joshimath district of Uttarakhand has an increasing number of houses that are developing cracks due to land subsidence. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court set January 16 to hear arguments in the case. When the petitioner asked the court to hear the case on Wednesday, Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud responded, “Everything necessary in the country doesn’t have to come to us, right? “acknowledging that democratically-elected institutions have a responsibility to address such events.
In the meantime, the Chamoli district administration has stepped up its door-to-door inspection and evacuation campaign in high-danger areas. The administration’s data shows that 678 homes have cracks, and 81 households have already been moved due to these defects.
The walls of one Joshimath home that The Indian Express saw have developed fractures. The home’s owner revealed that since January 2 of this year, the cracks in her house’s walls have widened. As shown in the video below, wooden logs have been placed inside the house to prevent the roof from collapsing. The home’s owner has cleared out the house, but some of her possessions remain outside because they have nowhere else to go. It’s too small for an eight-person family, the woman claims, and she has been ordered to move into a one-room apartment. “How will we fit?” she queries.
In addition to the homes, Malari Inn and Mount View, two three-story hotels, have also suffered significant damage. The district administration announced that both hotels would be demolished to prevent minimal harm to the nearby homes and neighbourhoods soon after Hotel Malari tilted toward the one next to it.
Dhan Singh, another Joshimath resident, voiced outrage at the state of affairs in the landslide-prone region. He claimed that “the government gave away people’s lands to the firms without asking the owners for approval.” The construction of motorways and hydropower projects in the area, according to 60-year-old Singh, is to blame for the noise pollution that has led to cracks appearing in Joshimath. He mentioned that letters sent to the President and the Prime Minister requesting the termination of these local development initiatives had not had a substantial impact.
Because of carelessness on the part of the government and administration, the situation in Joshimath has only worsened over time. The town of Joshimath was noted in a study by an 18-member team looking into the causes of landslides in 1976 as being “geologically unstable.” The building of suitable drainage and sewage systems and the placement of cement blocks on river banks to avoid erosion were advised, in addition to limits on heavy construction activities, agriculture on slopes, and deforestation.
The homes and roads in Raini village, which is 22 kilometres from Joshimath town, still had cracks in 2021. Both Raini village and Joshimath town were built on former landslide debris. In its report to the state government in 2021, a team of geologists who had studied the village then advised evacuation. It stated that the town needed “slope stabilisation” since it was “vulnerable.” The state administration, however, did not transfer or rehabilitate local families. According to a report in The Deccan Era, during June and July of 2021, flash floods in the area caused severe damage at the hamlet’s foothills and 5–10 cm wide fissures on roadways and surrounding structures.
The Prime Minister’s Office conducted a high-level conference on Sunday afternoon to discuss the situation in Joshimath. The decision to take a “whole of government” approach and coordinate efforts to control the crisis was made at the conference. Additionally, it mandated the execution of ongoing seismic monitoring, creating a time-bound reconstruction plan, and creating an urban growth strategy that considered risk. Senior representatives of the Central government, the state of Uttarakhand, and top officers from organisations like the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Geological Survey of India (GSI), and the National Institute of Hydrology attended the meeting, which was presided over by P K Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister (NIH).
The territory has been divided into a danger zone, a buffer zone, and a safe zone. The administration has accelerated its evacuation efforts because the area is forecast to have rain beginning on Wednesday and snow beginning on Friday. However, plans for these families’ long-term rehabilitation have not yet been chosen.