Demolition begins in ‘sinking’ Joshimath in India, hundreds move


Authorities will demolish several buildings in the Himalayan town after evacuating families as hundreds of homes show cracks.

Authorities in a northern Indian city demolished buildings that began to crack due to shifting ground, forcing hundreds of people to safety.

According to Indian media reports on Tuesday, the demolition drive in Joshimath state of Uttarakhand began on Tuesday, with authorities dividing the town of 25,000 into “danger”, “buffer” and “perfectly safe” zones.

A total of 678 buildings in the city, which is 1,890 meters above sea level, have developed cracks, authorities say.

A motorist makes his way through a crack in a road in Joshimath [File: AP Photo]

About 490 km northeast of the federal capital New Delhi, Joshimath is a gateway to Hindu and Sikh shrines and is popular with tourists seeking to trek parts of the Himalayas. It is also close to India’s border with China.

“It looks like 30 percent of Joshimath has been affected. A report is being prepared by a committee of experts and will be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office,” an official said.

“Basic facilities in the relief camps set up for the affected people in Joshimath are under constant inspection by the administration and all possible assistance is being provided to the affected people,” said Himanshu Khurana, the district magistrate of Chamoli, where the town is located.

Experts and residents have long warned that large-scale construction in and around Joshimath, including for power projects built by companies such as the state-run National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), could lead to subsidence.

NTPC, India’s largest energy producer, says the tunnels and other work are not responsible for the cracks in the city.

Khurana previously told Reuters that work had been suspended on some border road projects and on NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad 520-megawatt hydropower plant.

“Six structures from four departments have been found to be highly unsafe,” Khurana told Reuters news agency. “We will demolish some unsafe buildings based on the recommendation and under the guidance of federal experts.”

Local resident Prakash Bhutiyal, 50, said seven of the 11 rooms in his residence-cum-guesthouse had developed cracks and were waiting to be moved to a safer location.

“Our family of nine has been forced to live in just one room,” he said. “We kept all our belongings in the open. We have yet to be transferred to a safer place.”

Meanwhile, India’s Supreme Court rejected an urgent hearing on the case on Tuesday and set a date for the next hearing on January 16.

“Anything important doesn’t have to come to the apex court,” the court said, according to a report in The Indian Express newspaper.

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