Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami will visit Uttarakhand’s “sinking town”, Joshimath, on Saturday, to assess the situation following the collapse of a temple and several houses. He has ordered immediate evacuation of around 600 families.
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- The Centre has formed an expert panel to conduct a “rapid study” of land subsidence. A committee will study the effects of the sinking of land on human settlements, buildings, highways, infrastructure, and riverine systems, officials said.
- “Saving lives is our first priority. Officials have been asked to shift around 600 families living in endangered houses in Joshimath to safe locations,” Chief Minister Dhami said, adding that both immediate and long-term action plans should be prepared immediately.
- Medical treatment facilities should be available on the ground and arrangements for airlifting people should also be made, the Chief Minister further said, while ordering to expedite work on the treatment of danger zones, sewer, and drainage.
- A temple collapsed here on Friday evening, and several houses have developed huge cracks, alarming residents living under constant fear of a major disaster.
- Locals say climate change and constant infrastructure development are to blame. Experts argue that a variety of factors — relating to both human activity and natural — have led to the subsidence. The factors are not recent, they have built up over a long period of time, director of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology Kalachand Sain has said.
- Mr Dhami said a disaster control room should also be set up in the town, and there should be adequate deployment of both the state and national disaster response forces. Helicopter services will also be made available to help affected people.
- Joshimath is the gateway to major Hindu and Sikh religious destinations like Badrinath, and Hemkund Sahib. It also houses one of the major military bases near India’s border with China.
- The Auli ropeway, which is Asia’s biggest, has been stopped after a huge crack developed beneath it.
- The Marwari area in the town, where an aquifer burst, is said to be the worst hit as water is constantly flowing down with great force.
- All construction activities related to mega projects like the Chardham all-weather road (Helang- Marwari bypass) and the NTPC’s hydel project have been stopped till further orders on the demand of residents. The state government has said people whose houses are affected and have to vacate will get Rs 4,000 a month as rent for the next six months from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.