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Finding Alternatives


The first demo pre-fabricated hut for land subsidence affected residents of Joshimath has been built and seems quite viable from several points of view. First, it can be built quickly and will not cost very much. Also, it is safe for those who live in it should an earthquake or land subsidence event take place. It will last for at least one generation, and repairs as well as extensions would be cheap. In fact, this type of construction should become the preferred model for residential construction in the hills. Lightweight prefab material should also be used for expanding existing structures as well. Many well-to-do people already do so in many parts of the country. There are some shortcomings, of course, but the advantages are greater.

If the rehabilitation is done on properly located sites in the proximity of Joshimath, the housing would become quite a viable and acceptable alternative. The government, too, would be able to deliver on time and at much less cost. Hopefully, the rehabilitation process will begin soon and the sufferings of the people minimised.

Although promises have been made in this regard, it is also hoped that a general relook is being taken by the government on the urbanisation process underway in the state, particularly the hills. It is a given that the average family, with all the needs of the present day lifestyle, burdens the eco-system several times more than in the past. This has rendered the present construction and settlement pattern quite unviable. The problem is made worse by the fact that large scale construction projects are being implemented without the necessary examination of bearing capacity, availability of water, and planning for drainage, sewer systems as well as road connectivity. Grandiose projects such as that conceived for the proposed capital in Gairsain (Bhararisain) were given the go-ahead despite these shortcomings. Thankfully, they did not fully fructify. It has become more than obvious that politics should not override good sense.

It is not as though all the land in the hills is unviable for large constructions – the British, in particular, were good at identifying such sites – but its use should be prioritised based on need. This specially requires a relook at the pilgrimage and tourism models of the state. Already many suggestions have been made in this regard – most of them quite positive, and these should be considered with the required seriousness. The model should be sustainable in the long run so that the economy can grow without Joshimath like setbacks.