Joshimath is considered to be the meeting place of the gods in the upper region of North India, whose collapse is being blamed on the tunnels made by cutting the mountains.
State owned company NTPC is being condemned without any scientific reason. This is similar to how many people blame the god of the mountains for sudden floods.
So why are we not serious about it? Significantly, the subsidence is being observed in Karanprayag, which is far away from Joshimath and is a proof that the revenue owned NTPC project has nothing to do with Joshimath subsidence.
I take my point further. In 1972-73, the entire Shimla town sank 7 feet. Many buildings developed huge cracks and schools were closed. At that time no tunnel work was done there and the fault of the subsidence was given to the improper drainage of sewerage water.
Joshimath’s Dhansav is also a similar phenomenon, its forecast was given in the report of Garhwal Commissioner MC Mishra in 1976. But due to lack of understanding about it, the blame is being given to the tunnel. The local people are angry and have opened a front against NTPC in Joshimath, they are demanding to oust NTPC from the city by putting up posters.
Now according to the report of ISRO, within 12 days the city has sunk 5.4 cm. It is clear from the satellite images released by ISRO that Joshimath has sunk 5.4 cm within 12 days, this incident started on January 2, 2023. It is clear that Joshimath is facing a big challenge of landslide.
According to the study conducted by the National Remote Sensing Center of ISRO, during April to November 2022, the speed of landslide was slow, during which Joshimath sank by 8.9 cm. But between December 27, 2022 and January 8, 2023, this speed increased and in just 12 days, the land of the city sank by 5.4 cm. According to the report and pictures of the National Remote Sensing Center, the whole city is sinking. After this report, the report of Satellite Sentinel-1 SAR of Europe’s Space Agency has also been presented. The same thing was seen in him too.
According to reports, the entire city, including the army helipad and the Narasimha temple, is in the sensitive zone.
Tapovan Vishnugad Hydro Power Project (4X130MW) is a run of the river project, which is being constructed on river Dhauliganga of Joshimath in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. The detailed report of the project was initially prepared in 1992 by the UP Irrigation Department. This project was handed over to NTPC Limited by the Government of Uttarakhand in 2004. WAPCOS Ltd. amended the DPR and got all the approvals.
The project envisages the construction of a concrete barrage at Tapovan (15 km upstream of Joshimath), which will divert water to an underground powerhouse near Helang village (13 km downstream of Joshimath). The tunnel is at a distance of 1.1 km from the outskirts of Joshimath town and is about 1.1 km vertically from the ground level (below Auli). In December 09, water entered the tunnel and the local people blamed it on drying up of the water table in the Selang area of the project. But according to the National Institute of Hydrology, there is no connection between the water entering the tunnel and the water outside.
Now I come back to the current problem of Joshimath, it is a very old problem and started long before NTPC and Tapovan project. The project work started in November 2006. Earlier in 1976, due to land subsidence in the area, a committee was formed, which was headed by Mishra. This committee concluded that Joshimath is sinking on an ancient landslide. In this, many possible reasons were given for the cracks such as soil erosion and seepage etc.
Not only this, the experts of the committee formed in August 2022 also concluded that due to underground saturation, cracks are coming in the ground, one of the reasons for which is that sewerage is not being disposed of properly. Waste water coming from rain and houses is seeping into the ground, due to which the pressure condition in the soil is increasing and the shearing capacity of the soil is decreasing. Over the years, the slope of this delicate hill has increased beyond its soil holding capacity. Apart from this, the houses have been constructed with poor quality.
Now NTPC has investigated the matter of subsidence in Joshimath. In this context, the head race tunnel was evaluated and it was found that NTPC HRT has nothing to do with Joshimath subsidence, as NTPC’s tunnel is 1.1 km from the outer boundary of Joshimath. This tunnel covers an area of about 1 kilometer.
Out of 12 km tunnel, 8.2 km has been constructed by tunnel boring machines, due to which there was no disturbance to the surrounding rocks or balance. Which was constructed by controlled blasting 11 km from the subsidence area in Joshimath going.
The project is not in operation and the tunnel is currently not operational. No excavation work has been done in the tunnel since October 2020. Controlled blasts have only occasionally been carried out by DBM to produce HRT.
So why is NTPC being blamed for this? Instead of blaming the power giant, the need is to find practical and holistic solutions to save Joshimath from collapsing.