After buildings in Uttarakhand's Joshimath developed cracks due to shifting soil, the Prime Minister's Office held a high-level meeting over the matter on the afternoon of Sunday, 8 January. The immediate priority in Joshimath should be the safety of the residents, the PMO is learnt to have told senior government officials.
More about the meeting: The meeting, convened by the Principal Secretary to the PM, PK Mishra, saw the attendance of the Cabinet Secretary, senior government officials, and members of the National Disaster Management Authority.
The PM's Office said in the meeting that the state government must establish a clear and continuous communication channel with the residents. They were told to undertake continuous seismic monitoring, formulate a time-bound reconstruction plan, and develop a risk-sensitive urban development plan.
What is happening in Joshimath? On 3 January, residents of Joshimath woke up to a rattling sound. Cracks in the roads had increased in size and around 600 buildings had cracks in them. Secretary of Disaster Management, Ranjit Sinha, told ANI that new cracks had developed and new water sources have emerged in places. He added that water coming from underground is dangerous as it is creating a vacuum, causing sinking.
Did it happen overnight? No. Over the past few years, experts had warned that large-scale construction work, including hydropower projects, could lead to 'land subsidence'. Land subsidence is a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the earth's surface owing to the subsurface movement of earth materials.
The town has now been declared a landslide and subsidence-hit zone. The Centre also asked experts to prepare short- and long-term plans for conservation and rehabilitation.
How many have been evacuated so far? In a statement, the PMO said that residents affected by the calamity were being shifted to safe locations. It added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is concerned and has taken stock of the situation with Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.
Around 200 people have been evacuated from the town, which has a population of around 17,000 people. It is also a popular gateway for pilgrims travelling to Hindu and Sikh shrines. The CM has ordered the evacuation of 600 families.
Action taken by CM Dhami... The CM visited the area on Saturday to take stock of the situation. An aerial survey was conducted and an inspection of the land subsidence-affected areas was done.
He also ordered that a rehabilitation centre be set up. He instructed that danger zones should be vacated immediately and that the disaster control room should be activated.