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  • 07 January, 2022

  • 7 Min Read

Subsidence of the Joshimath Land (Uttarakhand)

Subsidence of the Joshimath Land (Uttarakhand)

  • Ground subsidence caused breaches in more than 560 homes and prompted alarmed villagers to complain, as a result, the Uttarakhand government has prohibited development work in and around Joshimath.
  • Joshimath, a vital hub for travelers heading to Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib, suffered fissures as a result of soil subsidence, which alarmed the locals and led to demonstrations.
  • Over 60 residents who were living in untenable homes in the sinking town of Joshimath were moved to temporary relief centers after the town was declared a landslide-subsidence zone.

In what region is Joshimath?

  • Many Himalayan Mountain climbing trips, as well as pilgrimages to Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib, begin in Joshimath.
  • One of Adi Shankara's four cardinal monasteries is located there.
  • In Uttarakhand's Chamoli district, on the Rishikesh-Badrinath National Highway (NH-7), is the steep town of Joshimath.
  • Runnin' streams with a high gradient from Vishnuprayag, a confluence of the Dhauliganga and the Alaknanda rivers, through the town (fall in high-risk seismic Zone-V).
  • Joshimath's first occurrence of subsidence was observed in 1976, and the town is situated on the site of historic landslides, according to the Mishra Commission study from 1976.
  • Heavy layer of overburdened material covering
  • Due to loose soil from seepage from streams uphill and scattered, highly weathered gneissic rocks with a limited bearing capacity, the town area is very vulnerable to sinking and prone to landslides.

What Causes Joshimath to Sink?

Weather catastrophes:

  • Extreme erosion caused by the floods in June 2013 and February 2021 (the flooding of the Rishi Ganga) had a negative effect on the landslide zone.
  • The most recent satellite data show that mountain streams have altered their paths and widened their channels, adding to the fragility of the belt's slopes.
  • The first reports of cracks in walls and structures were made in 2021 as the Chamoli area of Uttarakhand frequently faced landslides and flooding.
  • According to reports, a 2022 expert panel appointed by the Uttarakhand government discovered that Joshimath is "sinking" in some places as a result of both man-made and natural reasons.

Reasons for sinking:


  • Joshimath, which is located in Zone V of the seismic zone map, has seen a number of earthquakes with Richter magnitudes under 5, according to the Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority (USDMA).
  • Joshimath is extremely prone to sinking due to tectonic activity because it is located on a fault line.

Unanticipated construction

  • Using large machinery, the Border Roads Organization (BRO) is constructing the Helang bypass, which will cut the journey to the Badrinath shrine by around 30 kilometres.
  • Around Joshimath the Tapovan, hydroelectric (HE) projects, including the Vishnugad HE Project, have been approved. A tunnel boring machine (TBM) was used to excavate the project's tunnel.
  • Land Erosion: Other factors contributing to the fate of the city include sliding along natural streams and rushing streams from Vishnuprayag.
  • Impact: 561 homes have reported cracks, and at least 66 families have left the area. According to a government official, more than 3000 people have been impacted thus far.

Preventive measures:

  • Relocating residents to a more secure area is a preventative strategy.
  • Experts advise that the entire hydroelectric and development pipeline in the area be shut down.
  • In order to account for the new variables and shifting geographical features, the town's planning needs to be revised.
  • Planning for drainage and sewer systems is among the most crucial aspects that have to be researched and improved.
  • Replanting has also been advocated by experts as a way to preserve soil capacity in the area, particularly in sensitive locations.
  • To save Joshimath, a coordinated effort between the government and civil organizations is required, assisted by military groups like the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).
  • The state currently has weather prediction technology that can alert citizens to local events, but its coverage has to be expanded.

What is Land Subsidence?

  • An abrupt or progressive sinking of the Earth's surface is referred to as land subsidence.
  • The most common causes of subsidence, or the sinking of the ground as a result of underground material movement, are pumping, fracking, or mining operations that extract water, oil, natural gas, or mineral resources from the earth.
  • Natural occurrences such as earthquakes, soil compaction, glacial isostatic adjustment, erosion, the creation of sinkholes, and the addition of water to fine soils deposited by wind can also result in subsidence (a natural process known as loess deposits).

What is Landslide?

  • The sliding down of a slope of a mass of rock, rubble, or earth is known as a landslide.
  • They fall under the category of mass wasting, which is any downward movement of rock and soil caused directly by gravity.
  • The five slope movement types of falls, topples, slides, spreads, and flows are all included under the umbrella word "landslide."

Source: The Hindu

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