Dehradun: An eerie silence prevails over the small town of Joshimath. Nestled in the hills of Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, it was once a favourite getaway destination for trekkers, echoing with the energy of crowds headed towards the Char Dham Yatra.
Today, houses and hotels in the town lie abandoned, with residents shifting to evacuation centres as the land beneath their feet continues to sink.
Adding to this already spiralling crisis, frightening findings have emerged from the preliminary report released by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which suggests the entire holy town may sink as cracks continue to widen in over 700 houses.
Furthermore, ISRO and the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) have released satellite images of Joshimath. Taken from the Cartosat-2S satellite, they show that the temple town sunk rapidly by almost 5.4 cm in just 12 days!
In the first satellite evidence of subsidence in Joshimath, the Indian Space Research Organisation on Friday released images revealing that the town sank by 5.4 cm in a matter of just 12 days following a subsidence event on January 2.
Releasing images captured by the Cartosat 25 satellite, ISRO said between December 27, 2022, and January 8, 2023, the intensity of land subsidence in Joshimath increased over the previous months and the town sank by 5.4 cm through these 12 days.
The preliminary data was shared today by ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) which added that land subsidence in Joshimath was much slower between April and November 2022 when the town sank by 8.9 cm.
The affected zone subsided 5 cm within days and remained confined to the central part of the town.
The ISRO report said the crown of subsidence was located near the Joshimath-Auli road at a height of 2,180 metres and “a subsidence zone resembling a generic landslide shape was identified with a tapered top and fanning out at the base”.
The images also show the Army helipad and Narsingh Temple as prominent landmarks in the subsidence zone across central Joshimath.
The findings came on a day when the Uttarakhand Cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Puskhar Singh Dhami, cleared the release of Rs 45 crore from the state emergency fund for interim relief to the affected people. The approved compensation includes Rs 1.50 lakh interim relief to every affected family; waiver of power and water bills for six months starting November 2022; and Rs 5,000 monthly rent to affected families living on rent.
The Cabinet also granted in-principle approval to pre-fabricated settlements for affected families of Koti farm, Peepalkoti, Gocher, Gaukh Sailang and Dhak till long-term rehabilitation plans are ready.
“A decision has been taken to provide Rs 5,000 per month as rent to the affected families of Joshimath who were residing on rent. The CM has been authorised to raise this amount as per need,” state Chief Secretary SS Sandhu said after the Cabinet meeting. A proposal for compensation package to house owners of the affected areas will be prepared within a week and put up to the Centre, Sandhu said.
Loan repayments by affected families to cooperative banks stand deferred by a year and the Centre will be urged to prevail on commercial banks to follow suit, the Chief Secretary added.
The Cabinet further decided to order an assessment of the carrying capacity of all hill towns of Uttarakhand.
All state Cabinet ministers will also donate a month’s salary to the CM Relief Fund.
The demolition of affected structures in Joshimath is underway with families being moved to safer locations.