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Why Joshimath declared as ‘landslide-subsidence zone’?

Why Joshimath is sinking?

The appearance of cracks on many roads and houses across Joshimath, due to land subsidence, is neither a new phenomenon in this region — nor a reversible one. Such cracks have been observed in and around the town for several years now although this time, experts say, they are deeper than ever adding to growing anxiety and concern.

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Problem in Joshimath:-

  • The soil here is weak, comprising mostly of debris brought about by landslides,
  • The area is also a highly seismic zone.
  • Unplanned construction,
  • Population pressure,
  • Tourist infrastructure,
  • Obstruction to natural flows of water,
  • Hydel power projects

The first warning signs were sounded in the year 1976 M C Mishra committee report that had highlighted the dangers of unplanned development in this area, and identified the natural vulnerabilities. After that there have been several studies, all flagging the similar concerns. But the town has grown several times since then. It is now the hub of tourists headed to at least three important shrines — Badrinath, Hemkund Sahib and Shankaracharya temple — as a result of which major infrastructure development has taken place. The problem has not been so much that these activities have been carried out as that they have been done in an unplanned, and often unscientific, manner.

The main problem in Joshimath has been the fact that the town has come up on relatively loose soil, deposited by landslides triggered by earthquakes. There are lots of loose soft rocks, moraine (material left behind by retreating glaciers), and sediments. The area also falls in a highly seismic zone, and experiences regular tremors, making the top soil unstable.

About Joshimath:-

Joshimath, also known as Jyotirmath, is a city and a municipal board in Chamoli District in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Located at a height of 6150 feet (1875 m), it is a gateway to several Himalayan mountain climbing expeditions, trekking trails and pilgrim centres like Badrinath. It is home to one of the four cardinal pīthas established by Adi Shankara. This area was severely affected by the 2021 Uttarakhand flood and its aftermath. The town is confirmed to be sinking due to its geographic location being along a running ridge.

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