Plea to SC seeks ‘national disaster’ classification for Joshimath situation

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A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court of India, demanding that the ongoing land sinking incidents in Joshimath, Uttarakhand be declared a national catastrophe and that affected households be compensated. The petition, filed by religious leader Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati, calls on the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Central government to provide immediate assistance to the people of Joshimath, who are facing risks to their lives due to unforeseen instances of ground subsidence, land sliding, rapid water eruption, and the cracking of homes and agricultural plots.

Joshimath developing cracks

The town of Joshimath, located in the Himalayan mountain range, serves as the starting point for various treks and paths, attracting a large number of visitors and pilgrims. Over the years, the town has undergone rapid expansion and construction, but its geographic stability has always been questionable. In 2022, a Supreme Court-constituted team discovered that Joshimath was built on a unstable foundation.

The petition states that “no development is necessary at the expense of human life and their ecology, and if anything of the like is occurring, it is the responsibility of the State and Union government to halt the same immediately at war level.” However, the Uttarakhand government has been accused of ignoring warnings of a potentially hazardous situation and residents of Joshimath have blamed the National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) Tapovan-Vishnugad hydroelectric project for their problems.

On Saturday night, eleven more families were forced to evacuate the settlement as more homes in the collapsing community began to develop serious fractures. According to authorities, 603 homes in Joshimath now have cracks, with 65 households having already been relocated due to the damage. An additional 11 families were moved to temporary shelters on Saturday.

In response to the crisis, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami of Uttarakhand has established two coordination committees, under the direction of the Additional Chief Secretary and Commissioner Garhwal, to oversee the rescue and assistance of those affected. The District Magistrate of Chamoli has also been granted an additional Rs 11 crore ($1.5 million) in the interim.

The town of Joshimath, known as the entry point to popular holy sites such as Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib as well as the ski resort of Auli, is currently facing a serious crisis due to soil sinking. Massive cracks have formed in the town’s roads, farms, and houses as it gradually sinks, and several houses have already sunk, leading the Chief Minister to order the immediate evacuation of 600 residents.

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