Centre must intervene to save Joshimath and adjoining regions


Amidst reports that parts of Joshimath may have sunk over two feet, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has directed all government agencies and experts to refrain from sharing any information with the media. However, it needs to be understood that in this hour when the situation in Joshimath is worsening at a very rapid pace, it is important to inform not only the people of the areas falling in this belt but also the entire country. Joshimath is considered extremely important and sacred and is the gateway to the Badrinath shrine and Hemkunt Saheb Gurdwara besides being a heritage site that leads to the Valley of Flowers and to the international skiing resort of Auli. Located at a height of nearly 6000 feet in the Chamoli district of Uttrakhand, the area also holds strategic importance so far as our armed forces are concerned. The experts after going through ISRO maps are of the view that as per ground reports, there has been 70 cm subsidence in and around a badminton court inside the Jaypee colony. Residents have been asked to evacuate and the State administration has already started demolition operations in buildings considered unsafe for humans. Officials feel that the changes in the ground situation can be gauged through remote sensing. A team of geologists has been rushed to the spot to make a detailed analysis of the situation. A preliminary report by ISRO stated that there has been a rapid subsidence event in parts of Badrinath and things have been worsening since the past several months. There is also a demand from some quarters that all development and construction activity in the Himalayan belt should be discontinued without any further delay as reports are also pouring in that a similar thing appears to be happening in parts of Himachal Pradesh. Joshimath like many other parts of the Dev Bhoomi has a large bearing on the ecological balance in the entire Himalayan belt. Thus, the Centre and the State government should re-examine the repercussions of the construction activity and road building exercises to assess the situation. A speech of former Union Minister Sushma Swaraj while she was the leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha during the UPI regime has gone viral, where she is seen urging the then Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde to halt what was being described as development work.  Swaraj had further made a strong plea for also ensuring that additional dams on the sacred Ganga, Bhagirithi and Alkananda should not be built. Many decades ago, when mountaineering expeditions would climb various peaks in the Himalayas, an allegation which was commonly made was that the westerners were destroying the ecological balance by bringing in stuff which was not compatible with the surroundings. Whether that was true or not is for the experts to ascertain but in the present case, the top most and the only priority should be to save Joshimath and the Himalayas. The residents should be made aware of an impending disaster and sufficient time should be provided to them to move out and save lives. This save Joshimath operation cannot be put on hold any further.