Cracks emerge in other parts of Uttarakhand amid Joshimath crisis

By, Mussoorie
Jan 11, 2023 04:59 PM IST

In the Karanprayag area of Chamoli district, owners of houses facing land subsidence in Bahuguna Nagar area are worried over their fate

The Joshimath crisis has put a spotlight on land subsidence in the holy town, but the same phenomenon is also being reported from other areas of the state including Uttarkashi, Tehri, Pauri and Karanprayag, with the causes being the same as in Joshimath -- geology, weather, unplanned development, and large infrastructure projects.

Cracks appear at a house due to the gradual ‘sinking’ of Joshimath in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. (PTI) PREMIUM
Cracks appear at a house due to the gradual ‘sinking’ of Joshimath in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. (PTI)

In the Karanprayag area of Chamoli district, owners of houses facing land subsidence in Bahuguna Nagar area are worried over their fate

“Over 50 houses have either developed cracks or have been damaged due to the land subsidence activity triggered by the road cutting work done by the Public Works department (PWD) division under Char Dham all-weather road construction project initiated in 2021. Cracks that developed over the year have widened and are giving us sleepless nights, especially after we are seeing what is happening in Joshimath”, said Digambar Singh, 44 from Bahuguna Nagar who has shifted elsewhere in Karanparayag .

Gabar Singh Negi, whose house in Karanprayag has also developed cracks said, “A joint committee headed by Sub Divisional Magistrate Karanprayag was formed to assess the damage and it found that the houses were facing subsidence due to the road construction work done during the rains. Following that, the district magistrate, Chamoli wrote to the PWD principal secretary on July 18, 2022, requesting compensation estimated to the tune of around 84 lakhs to the affected families but nothing has been received so far.”

District magistrate, Chamoli Himanshu Khurana said the irrigation department has been directed to conduct a study in Karanprayag which is being done by a technical team from IIT Roorkee to assess the scale of land subsidence.

In Uttarkashi district, Sarnaul village in Barkot Tehsil is facing the threat of land subsidence caused by heavy rains.

Sarita Devi, Gram Pradhan Sarnaul village said, “Land subsidence incidents were witnessed in August during the heavy rains in our village when a massive chunk of the area below the village subsided developing cracks in many houses and forcing many families here to shift elsewhere. The treatment of the land affected due to the subsidence has not been done .”

She added that the first such issue surfaced in the 1990s.

Harish Thapliyal, a resident of Neri village in Uttarkashi said, “Massive landslide that occurred in 2013 near village led to an increase in land subsidence activities in the village and several villagers were left with no option but to shift to Dikoli village fearing for their lives”.

Hadyari village of Uttarkashi district, located on the rim of Tehri Hydro project reservoir is also facing land subsidence/landslides with several houses developing cracks after a 2021 landslide.

Dev Anand, sub-divisional magistrate of Purola in Uttarkashi district said, “A geological survey has been conducted and the report has been sent to the state government for the treatment of the affected area.”

Devendra Patwal, district disaster management officer Uttarkashi said, “The estimates for the treatment work in the area around Tehri Lake have been sent to the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation which has the mandate to execute the work as it falls in the rim of the Tehri hydropower lake .”

The area around Tehri dam itself has become a cause of concern, with several houses developing cracks due to land subsidence last year.

Rajendra Prasad, the resident of Luneta Bhattkhanda village in Jakhhnidhaar block that is located on the rim of the Tehri Hydropower dam lake said he lost his home due to reservoir-induced land subsidence . “Fortunately, the whole family sleeping outside in the other room when the incident occurred otherwise, we could have been buried in the rubble.”

The affected villagers said that a geological survey done in April 2011 recommended the displacement of several villages and with the increase in water level in the Tehri dam the cracks in the houses have also increased.

Harish Thapliyal, a local said, “Several villages above the water level including Hadyari, Badhan, Munda Sera, Kumrada, Baldogi, Chhoti Mani, Badi Mani and the Peepal Mandi market at Chinyalisaur have been experiencing land subsidence with several houses and shops developing cracks and people have been demanding their rehabilitation from a long time”.

Hemant Dhyani, who has been a member of the Supreme Court-appointed expert body to study the impact of hydro projects after a June 2013 floods in the area said, “ Our expert body and many other research articles reported that the reservoir drawdown effect has triggered land subsidence in the villages above the full reservoir level .”

He added that the state has failed to assess land subsidence damages and have provided compensation to only those villagers whose properties were submerged in the reservoir.

DS Negi, executive engineer from the Rehabilitation Infrastructure department New Tehri said, “ A collateral damage policy from 30 villages around the rim of Teri reservoir was formulated under which the residents of three villages Khand Dharmandal, Nandgaon and Gadoli have been provided financial relief and the residents of Raulakot village have been awarded land as per the rehabilitation guidelines. A proposal for Bhatkhanda and Utthad villages has been sent to the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation”.

Prof YPS Sundriyal, a geologist from Bahuguna Garhwal university said “a thorough study is required to assess the damage caused in the region due to the land subsidence”

An infrastructure project is also blamed by residents of Sweeth village in Pauri district who claim their houses developed cracks due to tunnel blasting being done for the Rishikesh-Karanprayag railway project. Anil Dutt Tiwari, a resident said, “After a massive protest which led to stalling of the project a five-member committee headed by District Magistrate was formed which conducted a survey in December 2021 which identified 224 affected families from Sweeth village and a compensatory package 1.50 crores was recommended and forwarded to the executing agency Rail Vikas Nirman Nigam Limited (RVNL) ”

Sabar Singh Kandari , another resident, added: “Since the beginning of tunnel blasting work using powerful explosives in 2019, houses in our village have been developing cracks .”

Pauri district officials said that as the findings of the study are not conclusive, Rail Nirman Vikas Nigam Limited has raised an objection to the compensation and will present its case in front of District Magistrate, Pauri

The 125.20 -km-long Rishikesh-Karanprayag broad gauge rail line will connect Rishikesh in the foothills to Karanprayag, and it will have 35 bridges and 17 tunnels, including a 15.1-km-long tunnel from Devprayag and Lachmoli, among the longest in the country.

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