New Delhi: The alarm bells ringing after the crisis in Joshimath have echoed in several other hill towns of Uttarakhand, with their residents saying they too are at risk due to cracks in buildings and roads.
Since early January, when the crisis in Joshimath escalated – after an aquifer burst in an under-construction tunnel of the 520 MW Tapovan-Vishnugarh hydropower project, cracks widened in the town’s buildings and panic-stricken residents swung into action The issue of dilapidated buildings echoed in several other places in the Himalayan state such as Karnaprayag, Uttarkashi, Guptkashi, Rishikesh, Nainital and Mussoorie. is being heard.
In Karnaprayag, located about 80 km from Joshimath, where work is underway for the Centre’s ambitious Rishikesh-Karnprayag rail line and the Char Dham all-weather road – both big-ticket projects aimed at connectivity to the Char Dham shrines of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath has to be reformed – the local people fear a Joshimath-like fate.
A media team visiting the area found several houses with huge cracks and rendered them uninhabitable, forcing more than a dozen families to spend several nights in municipal council ‘rain shelters’ Is kept.
According to Karnprayag Tehsildar, Surendra Dev, CMP Bend, ITI Colony and Bahuguna Nagar are the most affected areas. In Bahuguna Nagar located on the Badrinath Highway, more than two dozen houses have developed huge cracks and roofs of some houses are swaying. Locals claim that “excessive construction activity, hill cutting for the Char Dham road project and population pressure have complicated an already difficult situation” in this quaint town situated at the confluence of the Alaknanda and Pindar rivers.
Gabbar Singh Rawat, an 85-year-old retired army man who has been living in the town since 1975, said, “My house is on the verge of collapse. The pillars supporting it have started bowing. This problem increased further after the rains last year. We fear that the building will not survive another monsoon.
At least 85 houses in Rishikesh’s Atali village have developed cracks. Locals claim that this is due to the ongoing railway tunnel work as part of the Rishikesh-Karnprayag rail project. Villagers said cracks have appeared in almost all the houses and fields.
Tehri Garhwal is another area where cracks and land subsidence are reported, especially in and around the small village of Chamba. Fearing landslides, the residents are demanding immediate action. Most of the affected houses are near the 440-metre-long tunnel in Chamba main market area, which is being built for the Char Dham road project.
Tehri Garhwal Disaster Management Officer Brijesh Bhatt said, “Cracks have been reported in about half a dozen houses located near the construction site of the tunnel. The problem first came to the fore last year.
A portion of the road in Mussoorie’s Landour market, which is over a century old, is “slowly sinking” and has developed cracks which according to residents are widening. Locals say that there are 12 shops in the affected area with houses above and below and more than 500 people currently living there are at risk.
Similarly, the Lower Mall Road in Nainital had developed cracks in 2018 and a portion of the road had sunk into Naini Lake. Though patchwork was done, the cracks have reappeared and a portion of the road has started sinking again. Residents say that this situation has arisen due to the ever-increasing traffic load on the Mall Road.
In Jhalimath township of Agastyamuni block of Rudraprayag, more than a dozen families are on the verge of displacement due to cracks in their houses. ‘Drowning’ has also been reported in some areas of Guptkashi town in Rudraprayag district, the gateway to Kedarnath.
A case of landslide has come to light near Vivekananda Hill Agriculture Research Institute in Almora. Lakshmi Kant, director of the institute, said, “One of the institute buildings had to be demolished due to land subsidence on the adjacent road… The land around here has been sinking for the last 15 years.”
Experts say large-scale construction projects without adequate planning, combined with increasing population, tourist loads and vehicular pressure, are creating a deadly cocktail that is ravaging hill towns in Uttarakhand.
Veteran environmentalist Anil Joshi, a Padma Bhushan awardee who is the founder of the Dehradun-based Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation, said, “The Joshimath issue has come as a shock to me, due to the repeated negligence by the authorities concerned. didn `t come. The matter was raised in 1976, but no one paid attention to it. The time has come to focus on our hill towns as a priority and take immediate steps to arrest further decline.”
(with agency inputs)