• Joshimath, an Indian Himalayan town that has been gradually sinking into the ground, has had hundreds of residents evacuated.
• Joshimath is located in the state of Uttarakhand, and its chief minister, Pushkar Singh Dhami, stated that the subsidence has affected almost 25% of the town's territory.
• Over 2.5 square kilometers, Joshimath, which has 25,000 population, contains over 4,500 buildings (0.96 sq. miles). Authorities have been tearing down the unsafe structures out of more than 800 buildings that have developed cracks.
According to geologist Dr. SP Sati, "It doesn't appear that the subsiding parts of Joshimath, which comprise communities, houses, and constructions, would survive."
He claims that there ought to have been numerous hurdles to stop the collapse down the slope because there isn't any vegetation there.
Joshimath, which is situated in an area subject to earthquakes, was built on the remnants of a landslide brought on by an earthquake. Landslides are a frequent occurrence, weakening the soil.
Geoscientist and adjunct professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, CP Rajendran, cautions that the subsidence won't stop until a new lower level is reached.
By the time it stabilizes, he predicts that many of the buildings would have sustained damage.
Residents are also concerned that rain or snow in the upcoming days and weeks could make things worse.
• The stress of residing in a Himalayan town that is sinking in India
• As a Himalayan town sinks, cramped shelters quickly fill up
According to experts, a number of things, including years of uncontrolled construction, hydropower projects, and the absence of an adequate drainage system, are to blame for the current situation.
Heavy development in Joshimath was subject to restrictions even in 1976, according to a government report, which recommended that it only be permitted after testing the "load-bearing capacity of the land."
Additionally, the research recommended establishing suitable sewage and drainage systems as well as concrete cement blocks to prevent erosion.
Many of these suggestions were made last year in a study by a government group, which also called for creating a "well-planned drainage system".
However, activists have long argued that these have not been put into practice. The government-owned NTPC Ltd., a leading Indian power corporation, is the target of local rage because, according to them, its current Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project is tunneling through the ecology.
Atul Sati, the organizer of a group that has been staging rallies to rescue the town, claims that the firm is to blame for the harm done to the historic and cultural village of Joshimath and that it should compensate the locals.
The claims have been rejected by NTPC. According to a statement, the tunnel is located "horizontally more than a kilometer from the outer edge of Joshimath town" and does not cut through the town.
RK Singh, the federal minister of energy, has disputed any connections between the power plant and the town's state.
In a recent interview, he stated that "nothing occurred close to the village, the communities above the project, and nothing happened to all the villages in that 15 km span."
Critics have also pointed the finger at the federal government's well-known Char Dham road project, which intends to widen existing roadways bridging four Hindu pilgrimage sites. Following protests, construction of a bypass route that would have gone through Joshimath has been halted.
According to Mr. Rajendran, "You cannot build a motorway like the Autobahn [Germany's federal highway system] in Europe in the Himalayas." Administrators claim that these accusations may have a negative effect on "the inflow of tourists" and hurt the community's economy.
The magistrate of the Chamoli district, where Joshimath is located, Himanshu Khurana, believes that "we should ground our statements in science."
"The Himalayas are present in China, Nepal, Pakistan, and a large number of Indian states. Why limit yourself to Uttarakhand?" R Meenakshi Sundaram, the chief minister of Uttarakhand's secretary, inquires.
If the Himalayas are vulnerable, none of these nations or other states should engage in development activities, he continues.
Others have also suggested exercising prudence while making decisions about the town's future because it is close to India's border with China. Stopping development in border regions "would be a very cynical and strategically disastrous thing to do, taking into account India's security and strategic concerns due to the China factor," according to Dr. Suvrokamal Dutta, an economist and foreign policy expert affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Some experts continue to think there is hope for the situation.
The most pressing need, according to Dr. Swapnamita Vaideswaran, a geologist at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, is to rehabilitate those who have been most adversely affected. Long-term, "a new planned community" with stricter development regulations will be required, according to her.
According to Dr. Jeffrey S. Kargel, senior geologist at the Planetary Science Institute in the US, "this valley seems to be more unstable, more untrustworthy for human life and development than usual Himalayan valley."
"This place ought to be a national park. Allow visitors to enter for brief amounts of time to appreciate the scenery before leaving "He offers. He mentions a "similar breaking" that took place in 2010 close to the Pakistani town of Aliabad. The river Hunza was blocked by debris due to a landslide, which prevented water from moving downstream and resulted in the formation of what is today known as the Attabad Lake.
According to the sources, the increasing water levels in Attabad have caused thousands of people to be displaced.