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The holy town of Joshimath is situated at a height of 6,150 feet on the Rishikesh-Badrinath National Highway (NH-7) in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand (1,875 m). It is the location of one of the four monasteries built by Adi Shankaracharya in the four cardinal directions: Joshimath near Badrinath in Uttarakhand, Dwarka in Gujarat, Puri in Odisha, and Sringeri in Karnataka.

Joshimath, also known as Jyotirmath, is the winter residence of Lord Badri, whose idol is transported from Badrinath Temple to Joshimath's Vasudeva Temple. Hindus hold this holy town in high regard since it serves as a significant national centre for pilgrimage. Joshimath, which is home to one of the army's most significant cantonments, is also of tremendous strategic importance to the Indian armed forces.

What Makes Joshimath's Geology Special

Joshimath is located in the central slopes of the hill, with Dhauliganga and Alaknanda on the opposite sides, and Karmanasa and Dhaknala to the west and east, respectively. The settlement rests on an old landslide, not on rock, but on a layer of sand and stone. By eroding the river banks and mountain sides, the rivers Alaknanda and Dhauliganga contribute to the occurrence of landslides.

Nearly all parts of Joshimath have structural flaws and damage as a result of subsidence, which is the progressive settling of the land surface caused by the removal or displacement of subsurface materials.

Joshimath Is Sinking: Why

The Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, which has its headquarters in Dehradun, conducted a survey in 2022 and discovered that the region's gneissic rocks are highly weathered, have a low cohesive value, and are vulnerable to high pore pressure when saturated with water, especially during the monsoon season.

According to Kalachand Sain, director of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, the three main causes of these landslides are Joshimath's weak foundations (it was built on the ruins of an earthquake-triggered landslide more than a century ago), its location in seismic zone V, which is more earthquake-prone, as well as gradual weathering and water seepage that over time weaken the cohesive strength of rocks.

What Steps Are Being Taken To Resolve The Crisis

Joshimath has a total of 4,500 buildings, 610 of which have developed significant cracks, according to information provided by the Chamoli district administration. Joshimath has been designated a landslide-subsidence zone as a result, and more than 60 residents who were living in untenable homes in the sinking town have been relocated to makeshift relief facilities.

Additionally, it has been requested that the National Remote Sensing Centre in Hyderabad and the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing in Dehradun analyse Joshimath using satellite photography and submit a thorough report including images.

On January 10, the Border Management Secretary and the full-fledged commission of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) would both be in Joshimath to provide advice to the state government on both immediate and long-term measures.

Actions taken by Management Committee

A safe evacuation of all inhabitants should be the top priority, the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) said after reviewing the situation in Joshimath, Uttarakhand. The authorities were forced to relocate the citizens of the Himalayan town of Joshimath to a safe location after significant cracks started to form on homes and roads there.

Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba stated during an NCMC meeting that it should be prioritised to safely demolish unsafe structures. The NCMC advised that all studies and probes be finished on schedule.

The NCMC was also updated by the chief secretary of Uttarakhand regarding the current circumstances in Joshimath. It said that residents of seriously damaged homes were being relocated to safer areas. At order to accommodate all the affected families, the official statement further stated that relief shelters have been located in Joshimath and Pipalkoti. The afflicted Joshimath villagers are receiving proper help and compensation from the Uttarakhand government.

The chief secretary informed the committee that the Joshimath-Auli ropeway is no longer in service and that all building in and around the Joshimath Municipality area has been halted until further instructions.The district government has also dispatched national and state disaster forces for the relief and restoration work. The chief secretary received assurances from the cabinet secretary that all central agencies would remain accessible to provide any support that was required.

In the meantime, two hotels in Joshimath, which has experienced subsidence, are being razed despite objections from their owners and townspeople on the subject of compensation. The nearby human settlements were in peril as the hotels Malari Inn and Mount View leaned dangerously toward one another.

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