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Pilgrim centre Joshimath is sinking; residents being evacuated

COMMENT: For easy money, Uttarakhand, believed to be the land of Gods, has been sold out to tourism for wanton destruction. While highways and hotels have damaged the ecology, dams have started shaking the geological foundations of the ranges resulting in deep vibrations. Starting with phenomenally frequent landslides in the past few years, currently it has reached the phase of subsidence and a colossal disaster is waiting to happen.

The Chief Minister has convened a "high level" meeting. The subsidence will stop soon after that!

DEHRADUN, Jan 6: A town on the way to Badrinath in Uttarakhand, Joshimath is sinking. Hundreds of houses have developed cracks due to the land subsidence. Authorities have started relocating the affected residents.

The residents have been holding street protests for days against the Government alleging that the construction of the Tapovan-Vishnugad hydroelectric project and a bypass from Helang for Badrinath shrine underway is causing the subsidence and demanding that the works be stopped forthwith. Later the construction works were halted.

On Thursday, a bandh was observed against the administration and NTPC projects. A Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti has been formed to press for immediate rehabilitation of all the affected people.

As many as 561 houses have suffered cracks. Three thousand people have been affected. Sixty six families were moved to safer places till Friday evening. They have been put up at a school building, a Gurdwara, Nagar Palika Bhawan and the local ITI. Evacuation is contnuing.

The Hindustan Construction Company Ltd (HCC) and the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) have been directed to build 2,000 prefabricated houses to shelter the victims.

According to the district disaster management, 127 houses have been damaged in Gandhinagar, 153 in Ravigram, 71 in Manoharbagh, 50 in Parsari, 52 in Singhdhar, 29 in Upper Bazar, 28 in Marwadi, 27 in Suneel and 24 in Lower Bazar.

Even as the people living in the area are being evacuated, the homestays and other tourist businesses have come to a stop. The town is a halting point for the pilgrims and tourists. The ropeway to Auli has also been closed.

Engineers from the Geological Survey of India and IIT Roorkee are investigating the subsidence. Joshimath falls in a high-risk seismic 'Zone V'.

Joshimath is located at a height of 6,150 feet in Chamoli district. It is the gateway to Badrinath shrine, Hemkund Sahib, another pilgrim centre, and the Valley of Flowers, a tourist spot.

Joshimath is also a holy place for the Hindus where the Jyotir Math is located. Jyotir Math is one of the five 'pithams' established by philosopher-saint Sri Adi Sankaracharya, who propagated Sanatana Dharma and propounded Advaita Vedanta.

Uttarakhand is dotted with religious and pilgrim sites. Lakhs of tourists trekking to the Himalayan hills every year and new constructions of highways and hotels have damaged the geography of the region and is contributing to a climate disaster, ecologists claim.

Especially dams create deep geological vibrations threatening the hills, subsidence and frequent landslides. In the last couple of years landslides and subsequent casualties have become the order of the day in Uttarakhand.


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