Explained: Cracks on buildings. Why is Uttarakhand's Joshimath sinking?

Updated on Jan 06, 2023 10:43 PM IST

The panel's findings stated that ground subsidence — a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the earth's surface due to the removal or displacement of subsurface materials — has induced structural defects and damage in almost all wards of the city.

Cracks appear in a badminton court due to landslides, in the Joshimath of Uttarakhand, Friday.(PTI)
Cracks appear in a badminton court due to landslides, in the Joshimath of Uttarakhand, Friday.(PTI)
By | Edited by Aniruddha Dhar

After land subsidence was reported in Uttarakhand's Joshimath by protesting locals, measures by the state government have been put in place to tackle the disaster. In a high-level meeting chaired by chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, a number of measures such as setting up of a big temporary rehabilitation centre and activating disaster control room have now been ordered to deal with the impending urban disaster.

Also Read| Joshimath sinking? CM Dhami orders urgent steps at high-level meeting: Top 5

Timeline of recent events

Reports of residents protesting against the ‘gradual sinking’ of Joshimath emerged on December 24 last year. A rally was taken out alleging the administration is not taking any corrective steps after a survey by the city's municipality revealed that cracks have appeared in over 500 houses in the town over a year, rendering them inhabitable.

On December 27, a team of experts conducted an on-the-spot inspection of the town. The five-member team comprising senior officials, geological experts, and engineers inspected the buildings which have developed cracks, spoke to the affected people, and gave their feedback to the district administration.

Also Read| Uttarakhand's Joshimath ‘gradually sinking’? Families evacuated | Top points

Affected residents took out a procession late on January 5 and blocked the Badrinath Highway on Thursday morning in an effort to get the administration to do more.

The state government on Thursday halted construction works in and around Joshimath, including projects by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), as protests intensified.

The Chamoli district administration on Friday instructed to immediately deploy a team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in the town.

Why the cracks and land subsidence?

Cracks on walls and buildings were first reported in 2021, as Chamoli experienced frequent landslides and flooding. As per reports, the Uttarakhand government's expert panel in 2022 found that several pockets of Joshimath are "sinking" owing to man-made and natural factors.

The panel's findings stated that ground subsidence — a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the earth's surface due to the removal or displacement of subsurface materials — has induced structural defects and damage in almost all wards of the city.

Studies have blamed natural factors such as worn-out rocks, the location of the city, and human-induced rapid construction of buildings, hydropower projects, and national highways, etc. for the current situation.

Impact on human population

Latest reports indicate that at least 66 families have fled the town while 561 houses have reported cracks. Two hotels have been shut down. A government official said that over 3000 people have been affected so far.

(With inputs from agencies)

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