14 High Risk Zones Identified in Joshimath
The Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) has identified 14 high risk zones in Joshimath after a detailed survey. These zones with severe land subsidence include houses in the Marwari, Sunil, Upper Bazar, Lower Bazar, Singhdhar and Manohar Bagh areas. Residing in these high risk houses poses major safety risks. Around 1,000 residential and commercial structures fall in these high risk zones.
Cracks Not Widened
Positively, the survey found that the cracks and subsidence reported last year have not widened or deepened over the past six months. However, the identified areas remain highly dangerous for habitation.
CBRI has proposed two options for residents of the 14 high risk zones. They can either take compensation or relocate to a newly developed smart village with modern amenities and facilities. CBRI will provide full support to the state government in building an ideal new village.
When state disaster management authorities explained the situation and options to affected Joshimath residents, they protested the proposal. Residents said their livelihoods depend on Joshimath’s location and they prefer relocation to additional land within town rather than a new village far away.
Located in Chamoli district, Joshimath, also referred to as Jyotirmath, is an important Himalayan tourist and pilgrimage gateway town. Perched at an altitude of 6,150 feet (1,875 meters) above sea level, Joshimath serves as a crucial launching point for many Himalayan mountain climbing ventures, trekking routes, and important Hindu pilgrimage sites like Badrinath. Additionally, Joshimath houses one of the four sacred cardinal mathas founded by the Hindu spiritual leader Adi Shankaracharya. Its strategic location in the Himalayas has thus established Joshimath as a vital hub for adventure tourism and religious travel.
Zoning of Risk
Authorities have demarcated Joshimath into severe, medium and low land subsidence risk zones. One third area lies under serious threat. All options will be discussed with the central government before finalizing relocation plans.
Rejection of New Site
The proposed relocation site in Gauchar, over 90 kms from Joshimath, has been rejected by the Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, alleging inadequate public consultation. Residents want alternate land within Joshimath for relocation.
Cracks and Fissures
Large dangerous cracks and fissures had appeared across buildings and ground in January 2023 due to subsidence. This led to evacuation of many families to temporary relief camps and shelters.
While the identified high risk zones remain dangerously uninhabitable, discussions around relocation options, resident concerns, livelihood impacts, and rehabilitation packages are still underway between authorities and affected Joshimath residents.
Nevertheless, the safety of Joshimath residents remains the foremost priority. Difficult decisions may need to be taken even if it means residents moving away from Joshimath to protect their lives from future subsidence disasters.
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