IT took a nudge from the Uttarakhand High Court for the state government to make public the reports submitted by eight scientific and technical institutions on ground subsidence in and around Joshimath. One hopes it would not wait for another censure to act on the recommendations. The emergence of cracks in buildings in the Himalayan pilgrim town in December last year had led to large-scale displacement. The reports point to the lurking danger. Certain parts have sunk by over 3 ft and moved by 1.4 ft. A ban has been sought on construction in spring-zone areas. The authorities have been urged to develop a disaster-resilient model town to rehabilitate those displaced. A key suggestion is to create public awareness about geo-technical and geo-climatic conditions of the area.
The reports have called for reviewing the principles of town planning in hilly regions. Good construction practices, stringent regulatory mechanisms and prioritising safe disposal of water as well as waste are suggestions that have been made earlier. But this time, there is no option but to pay heed. Joshimath is a sinking town. It is also prone to high-magnitude earthquakes. Living in denial and relying on false hope is risky and short-sighted. Confront the reality, involve the stakeholders and draw up plans for the future. It is a tough, emotionally painful and expensive project. Get on with it.
Land submergence has been largely blamed on unplanned construction beyond the load-bearing capacity, besides deforestation and lack of drainage. The clean chit to an upcoming mega power project, work on which had been stopped following protests, demands an explanation. After what it has experienced in recent months, it would also be in Himachal Pradesh’s interest to take a close look at the findings and draw lessons. Change would invite resistance, but it is imperative.
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