Context: Among the factors mentioned are population pressure, poorly designed drainage systems, building flaws, and seismic activity.
Only when the Uttarakhand High Court questioned the State last week about why it hadn’t released the findings were they made public.
Where in Joshimath is?
- Joshimath is a hill town on the Rishikesh-Badrinath National Highway (NH-7) in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.
- The city attracts tourists because it offers an overnight stopover for travelers to the state’s most popular religious and touristic locations, including Badrinath, Auli, the Valley of Flowers, and Hemkund Sahib.
- Given that Joshimath is the location of one of the Army’s most significant cantonments, it is also strategically significant to the Indian military.
- Steeply grading streams that flow through the town from Vishnuprayag, where the Dhauliganga and Alaknanda rivers converge (the town is located in high-risk seismic Zone-V).
- One of Adi Shankara’s four cardinal mathematics, or monasteries, is located there: Joshimath in Badrinath, Uttarakhand; Dwarka in Gujarat; Puri in Odisha; and Sringeri in Karnataka.
Research from Various Institutions on Joshimath’s Land Subsidence
- In order to determine the cause of the land subsidence in Joshimath, Uttarakhand, eight prestigious Indian institutions conducted separate studies. These studies identified a number of “likely” causes for the Himalayan town’s sinking, including construction loopholes, population pressure, inadequate drainage systems, and seismic activity.
The report from the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI)
- Joshimath town has 44%, 42%, and 14% of masonry, RCC, and other (traditional, hybrid) structure typologies, according to the CBRI’s report. Of these, 99% are non-engineered.
- It indicates that they do not adhere to the 2016 National Building Code of India.
- The village of Joshimath is located on Vaikrita groups of rocks that are covered in morainic deposits, which are made up of clay with different densities and irregular boulders.
- These deposits are more prone to landslide subsidence and gradual subsidence because they are less cohesive.
The region has a history of gradual and sporadic subsidence, and the events that took place in December 2022 and January 2023 were only one more of them.
According to a research by the NIH in Roorkee, maps of different springs, drainage networks, and areas of subsidence suggest that there may be a relationship between underground water and land subsidence in Joshimath.
- The samples collected from NTPC locations had different isotopic and water quality signatures than those from the JP site, Joshimath’s neighboring drains, and springs.
- According to the bacteriological analysis, the pouring water is fresh and hasn’t been contaminated by the nearby drains. The report recommended that the NTPC be given a dean chit because their construction activities are thought to be one of the main causes of ground subsidence.
As a result, the institutions advised that the proper disposal of waste and water from the upper reaches be given first attention.
Other Important Factors
- One explanation for the slow and steady subsidence of land is earthquakes, according to the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG).
- The primary cause of the subsidence seems to be internal erosion brought on by subsurface drainage, which might be brought on by precipitation seeping through or ice melting or wastewater emitted from homes and hotels.
- Even though subsidence is a constant occurrence, it can be reduced by managing water infiltration, which also reduces internal erosion.
- The Joshimat region’s subsidence may be caused by the toe-cutting phenomenon, slope instability brought on by local drainage water seeping through the soil, terrain, and edaphic characteristics, loose and unconsolidated moraine materials of the slope (due to old landslides), and flash flood events that have recently occurred in and around the area, according to an analysis conducted by the Small Baseline Subset Interferometry SAR Technique.
Houses in Joshimath town as well as ground fissures have developed as a result of this.
What can be done to help Joshimath be saved?
- Experts strongly recommend that all hydroelectric and development projects in the area be put on hold. The town’s development must be redesigned to take into account the new factors and change the town’s geographical attributes, but first the population must be relocated to a safer area.
- Ditch planning is among the most crucial elements that require research and improvement.
- Poor drainage and sewer management are causing the city’s rubbish to get more embedded in the soil and loosen it from the inside out.
- The irrigation department has been asked by the state administration to look into the issue and create a new drainage strategy.
- In order to maintain the soil’s capacity, experts have also recommended replanting in the area, especially in sensitive places.
- Government agencies and civil authorities must collaborate in order to save Joshimath, with military units like the Border Roads Organization (BRO) providing support.
- Although the state now has weather-prediction systems that may notify citizens of nearby incidents, those systems may soon receive further coverage.
Satellites and Doppler weather radars—devices that use electromagnetic radiation to detect precipitation and determine its position and severity—are used in Uttarakhand to forecast the weather.
- Additionally, the state government ought to give greater weight to scientific research that elucidates the root reasons of the current issue. The state won’t stop developing till then.