The year commenced with a disastrous event, as reports surfaced about the temple town of Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district facing a crisis. The town was said to be ‘sinking,’ and signs of structural damage appeared on both residential and commercial buildings. This led to a humanitarian emergency, with people evacuating and seeking shelter in tents and open areas, fearing the collapse of their homes.
Analysis the various causes of recurring landslides in Uttarakhand. What can be done to dealt with such disasters in an effective way? (15 marks, 250 words).
Causes of the crisis in Uttarakhand:
- The immediate cause of the worsening cracks was linked to the tunneling activities associated with the Tapovan Vishnugad power project by the National Thermal Power Corporation.
- Concerns were also raised about potential factors such as groundwater depletion and unchecked urbanization contributing to substandard construction, possibly reaching a point where disasters became inevitable.
- Notably, the Central Building Research Institute in Roorkee highlighted that 99% of constructions in the region did not adhere to mandatory building codes.
- Surprisingly, the dissemination of information from scientists involved in the studies conducted on land subsidence was prohibited, citing concerns that satellite imagery of the subsurface in Uttarakhand, from both Indian and international sources, was exacerbating panic. Information was to be shared only after clearance by the Central authorities. Consequently, despite the reports being available for months, it took a stern rebuke from the High Court of Uttarakhand for the State authorities to make this information public.
- The National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee, emphasized the need to monitor the network of springs, drainage systems, and areas prone to subsidence, suggesting that these factors could influence land subsidence.
- The challenging geology of the region makes ambitious infrastructure projects resembling cities risky, emphasizing the necessity for stringent town planning and construction measures to minimize the risk of accidents and loss of lives.
- Independent scientific counsel should play a central role in policymaking, and clear boundaries must be set to limit development in the region.
While there is a valid argument for ensuring that citizens in hill states have access to basic amenities and opportunities for material progress, it is crucial for governments to make decisions that are sustainable rather than merely politically advantageous. A key step involves widely disseminating information about risks and incorporating it into public consciousness.