Staring at uncertain future, say Joshimath residents
As several houses in Joshimath in Chamoli district developed cracks due to land subsidence activities, the Uttarakhand government on Sunday declared all nine wards of the temple town as “landslide-subsidence zone” and unsafe for living.
A resident of Joshimath’s Manohar Bagh locality, 60-year-old Usha pointed at the cracks that have developed on a temple inside Jyotirmath premises as she poignantly said: “We are on the verge of losing our identity.”
Just like many of her neighbours, Usha said she has been spending most of the daytime in the open ever since cracks started developing in her house nearly a week ago. “The cracks have started growing wider. We are compelled to vacate the house, which we built with our hard-earned money over the years,” she said.
Rajni, a teacher employed with a private school in Joshimath and a resident of Manohar Bagh, said: “We are staring at an uncertain future. The school where I work may vanish too.”
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As several houses in Joshimath in Chamoli district developed cracks due to land subsidence activities, the Uttarakhand government on Sunday declared all nine wards of the temple town as “landslide-subsidence zone” and unsafe for living. After the district administration issued notices to vacate their houses, residents have started moving to safer places arranged for them by the Uttarakhand government.
Over 600 houses of the around 4,500 buildings in Joshimath — known as the gateway to Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib pilgrimage sites — have developed cracks, according to district officials.
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On several houses at Manohar Bagh, one of the nine wards of Joshimath, the administration on Sunday drew a big X symbol with red paint, implying they are unsafe for living.
School teacher Rajni, whose house has also been declared unsafe due to cracks, said she will leave her house on Monday. “I am concerned about the safety of my daughter and son. Though the government says we should shift to hotels and other accommodations made available by them, what if they develop cracks too,” she said.
Usha recalled how her daughter, settled in Visakhapatnam after her marriage, was planning to visit home. “Now when she comes, our house may have vanished,” said the 60-year-old.
Another resident from the ward, Suraj Kapruwan is busy packing his belongings to shift to an accommodation made available by the government, but he is unsure of what all to leave behind.
“We have lived here for years. Our livelihood is dependent on this town. Initially, we thought these hairline cracks are nothing. It is shocking they are growing at such a rapid pace,” he said. “I shifted my kids and other family members to a safer place two days ago. I don’t know how this house would exist.”
Chamoli district magistrate Himanshu Khurana, who went from door to door in the affected area to assess the extent of damage and appealed to people living in houses that have developed cracks to move to the relief centres, said: “So far 60 families have shifted to safer places and more are shifting.”
Uttarakhand chief secretary SS Sandhu, secretary to the chief minister R Meenakshi Sundaram and director general of police Ashok Kumar also inspected the Joshimath town.
Sandhu said experts and geoscientists from various agencies from across the country are studying the situation and they will suggest possible short-term and long-term remedial measures.