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Joshimath crisis: Why a 43-year-old report on the Uttarakhand city is prophetic

Everything we’ve scrambled to implement today we were urged to do then: strictly control construction, don’t blast the hillsides, improve drainage, prevent the erosion of river banks, etc.

January 09, 2023 / 10:06 AM IST
Joshimath was built on an ancient landslide site, and has always had low bearing capacity. (Photo: Vaibhav via Wikimedia Commons)

Joshimath was built on an ancient landslide site, and has always had low bearing capacity. (Photo: Vaibhav via Wikimedia Commons)

Almost 50 years ago, the Centre had appointed MC Mishra, the then collector of Garhwal, to look into why Joshimath was sinking.  The report submitted by the 18-member committee could not have been more prophetic. It clearly explained that Joshimath was situated on an old landslide zone and could sink if development continued unabated, and recommended that construction be prohibited in Joshimath.

Below are some of its salient observations:

Joshimath lies on an ancient landslide, resting on a deposit of sand and stone, not  rock. The rivers Alaknanda and Dhauli Ganga play their part in triggering landslides, by eroding the river banks and mountain edges. It's believed that increased construction activity and growing population have contributed to frequent landslides in the area, the 1976 Mishra Committee Report had pointed out.

“Joshimath is a deposit of sand and stone — it is not the main rock — hence it was not suitable for a township. Vibrations produced by blasting, heavy traffic, etc., will lead to a disequilibrium in natural factors…” the report has stated.