Joshimath Residents Struggle as Homes Uprooted, Lives Torn Apart
Over 131 families have been evacuated so far, and 723 buildings in the city have been found damaged with cracks.
The Quint DAILY
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The city of Joshimath in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand is sinking. The homes of the residents, along with their lives, are being uprooted.
The district administration has ordered the demolitions of buildings deemed 'unsafe.' Two hotels-- Malari Inn and Mount View, are the first buildings in the city to meet such a fate.
The citizens have been protesting on the streets of Dehradun, the capital of the state, and their own city, demanding adequate compensation and rehabilitation.
What Is Happening?
The citizens of Joshimath have been living in constant fear of their houses collapsing. The administration has asked many to evacuate their homes, and they are struggling as they leave behind their lives, their livelihoods and their pasts with these homes.
Cracks have appeared in buildings, roadways, and agricultural fields.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has announced Rs 1.5 lakhs as compensation for families who have been affected by this situation.
He has also announced a Rs 45 crore rehabilitation package for the people who have been affected by land subsidence within the state. He claims the compensation has already reached 3,000 families.
Where Is Joshimath?
Joshimath is a hill station in the Chamoli. It is a popular pilgrimage site and also famously called the gateway to Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib.
It is also a popular vacation spot for people who are visiting Auli, a destination for skiing, and the 'Valley of Flowers' a UNESCO World Heritage sight.
Why Is This Happening?
Joshimath has been facing gradual land subsidence. This has likely been caused by unregulated construction within the Chamoli district, say experts.
Another likely factor is the construction for NTPC hydropower project, which has been going on for over 16 years and has garnered a lot of anger from the citizens of Joshimath, and the expansion of the Char Dham all-weather highway.
Was the Crisis Inevitable?
According to a survey conducted by the Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority (USDMA) in 2022, Joshimath was built on landslide material and situated on already unstable grounds.
The first warnings against unregulated construction go as far back as 1976, when the Mishra Commission had cautioned against projects requiring construction by blasting the hillside or removing boulders due to the region's unstable foundations.
However, unregulated construction and felling of trees have created conditions ripe for landslides, say experts.
What About Rehabilitation?
The Uttarakhand government has identified Pipalkoti, a village within the Chamoli district as a possible site for relocation and rehabilitation for the affected families.
Residents have been protesting against the rehabilitation plan. Residents feel that it would be difficult for them to restart their lives in a far away place and would prefer somewhere closer to Joshimath.
Some residents have stated that they would prefer adequate compensation so they may chose where they should resettle themselves.
Most locals have objected to staying in relief camps, hotels and homestays and have demanded a one-time settlement plan.
But where is the space to rehabilitate all these families? And will rehabilitation be the end of their struggles? And what about their livelihoods?
These questions continue to plague those whose lives have been upturned by the crisis in Joshimath.
The relocation of such a large number of families would require ensuring adequate infrastructure for basic facilities such as roads and drinking water.
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Topics: Climate Change displacement Joshimath
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