Not just Joshimath, ground’s also slipping under Rishikesh, Nainital | India News


The alarm bells that have been ringing since the crisis in Joshimath are reverberating in several other hill towns across Uttarakhand, with their residents pointing out that they, too, are at risk due to cracks in buildings and roads.
Since the beginning of January, when the crisis in Joshimath escalated — after an aquifer burst in the underconstruction tunnel of the 520 MW Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower project, cracks in the town’s buildings widened and led to panic-stricken residents demanding action — the issue of crumbling buildings has echoed in several other places in the Himalayan state like Karnaprayag, Uttarkashi, Guptkashi, Rishikesh, Nainital and Mussoorie, to name a few.
In Karnaprayag, located around 80km from Joshimath, where work is ongoing for the Centre’s ambitious Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail line and the Char Dham allweather road — both bigticket projects intended to improve connectivity to the Char Dham shrines of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath — locals fear a fate similar to Joshimath’s.
A TOI team visiting the area found several houses had developed large cracks and become uninhabitable, forcing over a dozen families to spend several nights in the municipal council’s ‘rain baseras.’
According to Karnaprayag tehsildar, Surendra Dev, CMP Bend, ITI Colony and Bahuguna Nagar are the worst-affected areas. Over two dozen houses in Bahuguna Nagar, situated on the Badrinath highway, have developed large cracks and the roofs of a few homes are hanging precariously. Locals claim that “rampant construction activity, hill-cutting work for the Char Dham road project and population pressure have complicated an already difficult situation” in this quaint town situated at the confluence of Alaknanda and Pindar rivers.
Gabbar Singh Rawat, 85, a retired army man who has been living in the town since 1975, said, “My house is on the verge of collapse. Columns supporting it have started to bend. The problem worsened after the rains last year. We fear the building may not survive another monsoon.”
In Rishikesh, cracks have developed in at least 85 houses in Atali village. Locals claim it was due to the ongoing railway tunnel work as part of the Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail project. Villagers said cracks have appeared in almost all houses and agricultural fields.
Tehri Garhwal is another area reporting cracks and land subsidence, especially in and around the tiny hamlet of Chamba. Fearing landslides, residents have been pressing for immediate action. A majority of affected houses are in the Chamba main market area, near a 440-metre-long tunnel, which is being constructed for the Char Dham road project.
Tehri Garhwal’s disaster management officer Brijesh Bhatt said, “Around half a dozen houses that are located near the construction site of the tunnel have reported cracks. The problem first came up last year.”
In Mussoorie’s Landour bazaar, which is more than a century old, a section of the road is “gradually sinking” and has developed cracks that continue to widen, according to residents. There are 12 shops in the affected area with residences above and below them and as many as 500 people currently residing there are at risk, locals say.
Similarly, cracks had appeared in the Lower Mall Road in Nainital in 2018 and a portion of the road had sunk into the Naini lake. Even though patch work on the stretch was carried out, cracks have resurfaced and a segment of the road has again started sinking. According to residents, the steadily increasing traffic load on Mall Road has led to this situation.
More than a dozen families in Jhalimath Basti in Agastyamuni block of Rudraprayag are on the verge of displacement after cracks appeared in their houses. Guptkashi town in Rudraprayag district, the gateway to Kedarnath, has also reported ‘sinking’ in a few areas.
At Almora, the issue of land subsidence has been reported near Vivekananda Parvatiya Agricultural Research Institute. Lakshmi Kant, director of the institute, said, “A building of the institute 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 that massive construction projects undertaken without enough planning, combined with rise in population, tourist load and vehicular pressure are creating a deadly cocktail that is hurting hill towns in Uttarakhand.
Veteran environmentalist Anil Joshi, a Padma Bhushan awardee, who is founder of Dehradun-based Himalayan Environment Studies and Conservation Organisation, said, “Owing to repeated negligence by the authorities concerned, the Joshimath issue does not come as a shock to me. The matter had been flagged in 1976 but no one took note of it. It is time that we focus on our hill towns as a priority and take immediate steps to prevent further deterioration.”
(With inputs from Kautilya Singh and Pankul Sharma in Dehradun, Gaurav Talwar in Karnaprayag, Sonali Mishra in Nainital, Abhyudaya Kotnala in Uttarkashi & Pramod Dalakoti in Almora)

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