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6 feet deep hole spotted in Joshimath after rains

The hole was found in a field, raising new concerns about geological fragility

By Seerat Bashir
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Joshimath sinks by over 3.6 feet due to climate change: Reports

According to an eyewitness, a 6-foot deep hole was seen in a field in Joshimath, Uttarakhand's Chamoli district, raising new concerns regarding geological instability caused by monsoon rains in the pilgrim gateway town in which hundreds of households were forced to flee to more secure areas in January shortly after several homes created risky cracks.

"I found a 6-foot-deep hole in a small area close to my house." It looks to have formed as the consequence of monsoon rains," a resident of Sunil ward was cited as quoted in Hindustan Times. According to the eyewitness, rain is causing more damage to properties all over town. Cracks in already damaged houses are also gradually expanding, he added. 

The Uttarakhand government's expert panel discovered that some parts of Joshimath are "sinking" following an investigation in 2022. So far, 868 structures in Joshimath have developed fractures, with 181 designated hazardous, according to reports,  

According to a PTI report, cracks emerged on the road linking the subsidence-affected Joshimath and Badrinath in February 2023 also. During the yatra season, the road can be used for carrying pilgrims from Joshimath to Badrinath. Cracks in buildings and structures initially became apparent in Joshimath in 2021, during a period of significant landslides and flooding in Chamoli.

Residents led by Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti have met Chamoli district magistrate Himanshu Khurana at district headquarters in Gopeshwar to discuss the possible dangers to the region in the season of monsoons.

Previously, the Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti called off its 107-day sit-in protest following Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami's promise of serious progress on its 11-point charter of requests. According to a PTI report, Samiti's demands include easing the process of rehabilitating impacted people and making open the report of the collaborative investigation undertaken by several scientific institutes on the Joshimath land subsidence disaster.

Considering the vast majority of Chamoli district lies on the southern slopes of the outer Himalayas, monsoon currents infiltrate via trenched valleys, with rainfall peaking during the monsoon season.

The Chamoli district, where Joshimath is situated, possesses a past of heavy rains. It recorded 537.9 mm of rain in July 2013, the second-highest amount ever recorded in the district before records began in 1901. The greatest rainfall of 860.7 mm was recorded in September 1924.

The Chamoli incident in February 2021 near Raini hamlet, about 20 kilometers from Joshimath, revealed the area's sensitivity to natural disasters. Only 92 bodies were discovered after the flash floods killed 204 people.

Such flash floods in the Alaknanda River, which flows at the base of Joshimath town, had weakened the town's toe, with locals suggesting it could be one of the root causes of Joshimath's landmass fragility. "Water flowing underground destroys fine material (loose soft rocks) below the surface, making a hole-shaped depression." The monsoon rains are essential. Excessive rainfall could worsen the situation," said Professor YP Sundriyal, Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal Geology Department Head.

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