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Joshimath Landslide scare: Cracks develop in Shankaracharya Math

According to the researchers, urbanization has historically aggravated these issues because it disrupts natural water drainage, slopes, and results in an uncontrolled flow of water.

As the holy town of Joshimath in Uttarakhand faces a major threat of land subsidence, the Shankaracharya Math located in Joshimath has also developed cracks in many places. The Jyotirmath administration informed that these cracks have increased in the last 15 days. 

Highlighting the cause of the calamity, Swami Vishwapriyanand, the chief of the Math, said that this development is a cause behind the looming threat.

While speaking to ANI, the Math chief Swami Vishwapriyanand said, “Development has now become a reason for destruction as hydroelectric power projects, and tunnels have affected our town. There were no cracks 15 days back, but these days the cracks are continuously increasing in Math.”

Notably, cracks have appeared in the Shivling of Shankaracharya Madhav Ashram temple.  

Meanwhile, the state government and district administration have made arrangements for the families affected by the landslide. 

The CM Pushkar Singh Dhami-led government has assured that the affected people will be provided with pre-fabricated houses. 

According to the District Disaster Management Department, 561 houses in Joshimath have developed cracks due to the continued subsidence of land. So far, 66 families have reportedly migrated from Joshimath. 

Notably, the Uttarakhand government has formed a team of scientists to find out the reason behind the occurrence of land subsidence in Joshimath and the resultant damage reported to the houses.

Why is Joshimath sinking?

Joshimath is located on the middle slopes of the hill, bounded on the west and east by Karmanasa and Dhaknala, respectively, and on the other sides by Dhauliganga and Alaknanda.

With increasing urbanization, this small Himalayan town has come under increased strain. According to the researchers, urbanization has historically aggravated these issues because it disrupts natural water drainage, slopes, and results in an uncontrolled flow of water.

Mishra Committee Report 1976 and the warning ignored

It is pertinent to note that the alarm for an expected landslide was raised as far back as 1976, in the Mishra Committee report. The report stated that Joshimath is situated in a landslide zone and it is sinking. The Mishra Commission recommended that construction activities in the area should be banned. Ignoring the warnings, several hydroelectric projects were sanctioned around Joshimath and Tapovan. The Mishra Committee, named after MC Mishra, the then commissioner of Garhwal, in the erstwhile Uttar Pradesh stated that for the construction of roads, boulders should not be removed by digging or blasting the hillside. It added that the trees in the region should be “nurtured like children.”

Despite providing a scientific basis, the Mishra Committee’s recommendations were ignored by the governments for years. 

Notably, in 2009, a similar situation prevailed when a head race tunnel was excavated using a tunnel boring machine (TBM). It punctured water-bearing strata about 3 kilometres inward of the left bank of the Alaknanda near Shelong village. According to project officials, the site was more than a kilometre below the surface, somewhere below Auli. According to reports, the water discharge rate was between 700 and 800 litres per second. The aquifer discharge was approximately 60-70 million litres per day, which is enough to sustain 2-3 million people. The aquifer had not dried out even after a month. 

Referring to the 2009 incident, Anjal Prakash, IPCC author and faculty at ISB said that the hydropower projects in the Joshimath area should be reconsidered. “This is not the first time this has happened, and the Joshimath area is where the groundwater has nowhere to go and will sink the area that it has. Second, it is an active seismic zone,” Prakash said.

Joshimath has been sinking for years, even before any of the current construction projects, the government is trying their best to save it, hopefully, we don’t lose this town forever

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