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Joshimath Crisis

In Uttarakhand, the town of Joshimath is going through an unparalleled catastrophe. Roads and the town's many homes, businesses, and structures all now have large cracks in them. The occupants of numerous buildings have been notified that they are unsafe and requested to leave. Joshimath has been designated a region affected by landslides and subsidence by the authorities. The entire town is submerging. Although the town is located in an area of unstable geology, the main cause of the sinking is thought to be large-scale development projects being carried out in the area. Residents of Joshimath, a city in northern India, have long complained to the authorities about how their homes are sinking. Since approximately 100 families had to be evacuated in the previous week, authorities were compelled to act and hasten the arrival of experts to ascertain the cause. The government and its agencies have taken a variety of actions in response to the disaster, but they are being held accountable for long ignoring the warnings issued by several environmental activists and geological experts about the unchecked development being carried out in the area.

Hundreds of homes are now uninhabitable due to cracks running through the city, and some worry that India may lose a vital entryway for pilgrimages for religious purposes and tourism excursions on adjacent mountain trails. Joshimath, which is in the state of Uttarakhand in the northeast, is surrounded by two rivers and perched on the Himalayan mountains, making it particularly vulnerable to earthquakes, landslides, and erosion, according to environmental experts.

During a geological survey of Joshimath in August 2022, a team of scientists, geologists, and researchers assembled by the state government of Uttarakhand noted that locals had reported an accelerated rate of land erosion that year, which was largely attributed to heavy rainfall in October 2021 and catastrophic flash flooding earlier that year, raising concerns about the effects of climate change on the area.

Numerous homes in Joshimath had significant damage, according to the survey, and others were "unsafe for human habitation" and constituted a "severe risk" to the people living there. The assessment advised construction in some places to be restricted, with "future developmental activities in the affected areas," pointing to obvious fissures in walls, floors, and along numerous routes as evidence that the city was sinking.

Joshimath is a town in Uttarakhand's Chamoli District. It is situated at an elevation of about 1875 meters in the Middle Himalayas. Joshimath, a sacred site and popular tourist destination, lies close to Badrinath (one of the Char Dhams in Uttarakhand). Additionally, it is close to Shri Hemkund Sahib and the Valley of Flowers National Park (a holy shrine in Sikhism).

All building projects in Joshimath, including those on a bypass road and the National Thermal Power Corporation's (NTPC) Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project, were temporarily halted on January 5 by the district administration. On the Dhauliganga river, which largely abuts Joshimath's eastern side, a hydropower station is being built. Some locals and environmental specialists feel that the project's tunneling construction may have made the soil erosion worse.

Joshimath and its surrounding areas have been sinking at a pace of 6.5 centimeters (2.5 inches) each year, according to two-year research by the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, carried out between July 2020 and March 2022.

Joshimath has been deteriorating for a while. MC Mishra, the Garhwal County Collector at the time, had been chosen by the Union Government to investigate the cause of the sinking. The report was delivered by the 18-member Committee in 1976. The report identified a number of contributing causes, including the placement of an old landslide, river bank erosion caused by the Dhauliganga and Alaknanda, increased construction activity, and inadequate drainage infrastructure (resulting in water seepage and soil erosion).

The Joshimath Crisis highlights the negative effects of unrestrained growth in a location with unstable geology and sensitive environmental conditions. The region is currently experiencing various crises (Kedarnath 2013, Chamoli 2021) that call for a reexamination of the current development strategy. It is essential to make a change right away that prioritizes sustainability. If not, similar crises will happen more frequently and have terrible results.


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