Amid protests by a group of residents in Joshimath, the Chamoli administration on Thursday put a ban on all construction activities in and around the ”sinking” town even as nearly 50 families staying in houses at risk have been evacuated so far.
The town observed a bandh to protest against administrative indifference to the plight of residents and the ”NTPC projects which have led to its gradual sinking”.
People descended on the streets shouting slogans against an ”idle administration” and staged a chakka jam while the business establishments remained closed, Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti convenor Atul Sati said.
Additional District Magistrate (ADM) Abhishek Tripathi came to persuade the agitators staging a dharna but he was told that it will continue until decisive action is taken on their demands.
The demands include immediate rehabilitation of residents, stopping construction of an NTPC tunnel and a bypass road between Helang and Marwadi for Badrinath and fixing responsibility of this disaster on the NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project, he said. The district administration subsequently put a ban on the construction of Helang bypass by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), work of the Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project and other construction work undertaken by the municipality with immediate effect till further orders. The NTPC and the Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) have also been asked to build 2,000 pre-fabricated houses each in advance for the affected families. The district administration is taking all steps to ensure the safety of affected people. So far 47 families living in houses at risk after developing cracks have been shifted to safer locations temporarily including Nagar Palika Bhawan, a primary school building, the Milan Kendra, BKTC guest house, GIC, Gurudwara, inter college building and ITI Tapovan, District Disaster Management Officer N K Joshi said. A team of senior officials, including Garhwal Commissioner Sushil Kumar, Disaster Management Secretary Ranjit Kumar Sinha, Disaster Management CEO Piyush Rautela, NDRF deputy commandant Rohitashva Mishra and Earthquake Minimisation Centre’s Shantanu Sircar and IIT Roorkee professor B K Maheshwari visited Joshimath and held a meeting with officials to assess the situation. A detailed survey of the situation is being done and houses particularly at risk are being identified, the official said. District Magistrate Himanshu Khurana is constantly monitoring the situation and the SDRF, NDRF and police have been asked to be on the alert. Located at a height of 6,000 feet in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, the town on the route to Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib falls in high-risk seismic ‘Zone-V’.
So far, 561 houses in different areas of the town have developed cracks, including 153 in Ravigram, 127 in Gandhinagar, 71 in Manoharbagh, 52 in Singhdhar, 50 in Parsari, 29 in Upper Bazar, 27 in Suneel, 28 in Marwadi and 24 in Lower Bazar, Joshi said.
The degree of damage to the houses differ and till now 47 families from the most affected houses have been shifted temporarily to safer places from the town, he said, adding that more families could be evacuated if required.
Some of the families have also been shifted for the time being to the places of their relatives, Joshi said.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said the situation in Joshimath is being closely monitored and he will visit the place soon to assess the situation.
The officials said a team of experts has also been set up to conduct a survey of the place that falls in the high risk seismic ‘Zone-V’.