Home Feature Joshimath’s fault-lines are increasing

Joshimath’s fault-lines are increasing



By Hugh and colleen Gantzer

Joshimath was a disaster waiting to happen before our state was cloned from UP.  Warnings had been issued by experts but they were ignored both by the Uttar Pradesh netas as well as those Uttarakhandis elected by our people. And now everyone who should have taken preventive action is pretending that Joshimath was a “natural disaster”.  If you tie a noose around your neck, stand on a stool, and then kick away the stool the natural consequences would be disastrous for you. But  few people would call your suicide a natural disaster!

According to a news-report, the authoritative Landslide Atlas of India issued by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) ”India is among the top 5 landslide-prone countries globally where at least one death per a hundred Sq. Km. is reported in a year  due to a landslide event. The Himalayas and the Western Ghats are highly vulnerable . As many as 66.5% of the  landslides are reported from the North-Western Himalayas, about 18.8% from the North-Eastern Himalayas and about 14.7% from the Western Ghats, nearly half of the country’s landslide-prone areas . Over nearly half of the country’s landslide-prone areas are located in the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh. Sikkim, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura  and  Nagaland.  Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir cover 0.14 million sq. Km. of the total landslide prone areas.  An alarming situation  is emerging from Uttarakhand and Kerala. THE HAIALAYAN STATE HAS EXPERIENCED THE SECOND HIGHEST NUMBER (11,219) OF LANDSLIDES SINCE 1998.

 Why do landslides occur?

A quote attributed to Dr. Manish Mehta, a Geologist at Dehra Dun’s Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology says “We studied the Climate Research Unit data for the last over 100 years from 1900 onwards and observed that since 1950 the winter temperatures (November to February) started rising gradually. However, since 2000 onwards, the rise has been rapid, while summer temperatures (May to September), have remained more or less the same. Earlier the glaciers melted only during the summer, winter was the accumulation or rejuvenation period. With rising winter temperatures glaciers are melting throughout the year. This has affected the rainfall as well. Summer rain is more while Winter precipitation has decreased. Earlier snowfall happened from November to January. Now the period has decreased to two months and shifted to the warmer months of January and February. The snow that fell during the colder months of November and December was more stable and lasted longer”.

This general warning about landslides in our state is worrisome, but there is an even more specific apprehension. According to the Landslide Atlas, “The two hill districts of Rudraprayag and Tehri have the maximum exposure to landslides in the country.  Moreover, according to the District Emergency Operations Centre, as carried in a  news report, “Rudraprayag District that houses the Kedarnath shrine has 32 chronic landslide zones with maximum located on NH 107 that  leads to the holy town . Similarly Tehri District has over two dozen landslides zones including Totaghati which has been identified as a very chronic landslide site. Rudraprayag and Tehri Districts have been ranked First and Second respectively among 147 districts from across the country. The District Disaster Management Office of Rudraprayag’s  NK Rajwae said “The Sirobagad and Narkota landslides are problematic as they remain active almost throughout the year’” According to the data from the State Emergency Operation Centre between 2018 and 2021 Uttarakhand reported 253  landslides which resulted in the death of 127 people.

Finally, satellite data reconstructed the chain of events around Kedernath during June 16-17, 2013 and that reactivation of a large old landslide which damaged the river wall that resulted in the flooding of Kedarnath town. The twin events not only buried  Kedarnath town with debris brought down from terminal and  lateral moraines of  Chorabari and Companion glaciers but also changed the course of Mandakini River from west of  Kedarnath town to east  of it.

All these facts, Dear Netas, are in newsprint in the public domain. Do you still want to stress our mountains by tunnels and ropeways?  Or do you not care for Uttarakhand and the people who made you a neta?

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)