Joshimath is one of the beautiful towns situated in the foothills of the Himalayas in the Dev Bhoomi. It is the gateway of the Badrinath and it leads to a Valley of Flowers and various trekking trails. Since February 2021, we have been witnessing various climate havoc in Joshimath whether that is the devastating flood on 7th February 2021 or the news of the sinking of the town in the recent reports.
According to researchers and environmentalists, right now Joshimath is becoming a grave reminder to the people who are disturbing the environment. This results in a disastrous and irreversible situation.
Geography of Joshimath
It is located at a high altitude of 6150 feet in the Himalayas. The very first observation of 1939 claims that the actual site of Joshimath is located at the debris of the old landscape. That made it very clear, how weak these sites are.
Dispite of that fragility, the town is growing rapidly since 1960 and the construction of various big projects are growing at an alarming rate.
Climate Change creates Devastation in Joshimath
Blasting mountains and digging tunnels deep into the base of mountains for the construction of roads and various hydropower projects is the major cause of the natural disaster in the fragile region of Joshimath, which leads to climatic destruction.
The increase in such activities led to the occurrence of natural disasters more frequently. The Frequency and magnitude of these disasters are getting worse with every year passing.
Ignorance of the Geographical Conditions of Joshimath
Many researchers stated that the traditional technique of construction of houses and other infrastructure is more accurate for the fragile land of Joshimath to withstand the case of earthquakes and landslides in comparison to the modern technology of construction
Without proper infrastructure planning, the town is growing at a rapid speed putting the ecosystem of the Himalayas at more risk which affects the climatic change in the region.
Impact of Climate Change on the Lives of People and their Surrounding
Cloud bursts, floods, and landslides aren’t new things for the state of Uttrakhand. Every year in the season of monsoon it is recorded in many places of the state. What matters a lot is it the frequency of such disasters and calamities is increasing every year. This climate havoc in Joshimath is the biggest concern at this time.
2021 Uttarakhand Flood
On 7th February 2021, the state of Uttrakhand witnessed a devastating flood that occured in the Chamoli district, which is caused by Ice and rock avalanches. This disaster started in the surroundings of Nanda Devi National Park and caused the flooding in whole Chamoli district. This is a live example of how climate change is affecting the lives of people and the areas surrounding them.
This incident destroyed the two hydropower plants which are situated near the Nanda Devi National park. Due to this, 73 innocent people lost their lives and many workers who were working at a site near the Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project were confined in a tunnel. Many of them were rescued by the rescue team but some casualties were found later.
Consequences of the Climatic Change
The land of Joshimath is very unstable. People witnessed random cracks in their houses or premises and the roads are caving in many places. This whole scenario of cracked houses and street is the outcome of unchecked construction work around this geographically and cliamatically sensitive town.
ISRO recently released some satellite images, which show that the town sank 5.4cm in just 12 days and it may completely sink in the future. These images show how critical the situation is right now in the land of Joshimath.
Joshimath is Sinking because of Environmental Changes
Experts believe that the main reason for the sinking of the land at Joshimath is the NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad Hydropower Project and the building of the roads at an indiscriminate speed. This is the perfect example of how people are destroying the environment and it causing an irreversible impact on nature.
The phenomenon of retreating monsoon is not a common thing in the state of Uttrakhand. But last year, Dev Bhoomi experienced this phenomenon and this caused havoc in the hills. In October 2022, Uttrakhand received a record of 192.6 mm rainfall which was just 31.2 mm in October 2021.
So not only Joshimath, but its nearby areas are also at risk of this climate change. The current situation is alarming for those places.
A rescue operation is conducted by the government of Uttrakhand to rescue the people who are living in the danger prone locations and to relocate them to a safer area. Rescuing people is the priority of this operation but they are very late in addressing the seriousness of the situation. Now, they are left with no time to fix this situation.
State and centre disaster relief teams as well as experts are monitoring the situation in addition to the rescue and relocation operations that are going on. One strange and alarming aspect about PM Modi led centre government’s response is that they have issued an order asking all the govt agencies to not share any information with the media and also forced ISRO to pull their recent report from the media. Hiding information to paint a picture of all is well is very disappointing and alarming in a democractic setup.
We hope that people who got affected by the recent events in Joshimath may find the strength to bear this calamity and government provides them with best possible re-habilitation fascility.