Demolitions Begin in India's Sinking Himalayan Town

    Demolitions Begin in India's Sinking Himalayan Town
    Last updated Jan 10, 2023
    Image credit: PTI [via Hindustan Times]


    • On Tuesday, authorities in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand began the process of demolishing 678 unsafe houses — which developed huge cracks over the past week — in the sacred Himalayan town of Joshimath.[1]
    • Meanwhile, residents staged massive protests demanding four times the compensation of the present value of the damaged buildings, which are set to be demolished on Wednesday.[2]
    • Earlier, the state government had declared Joshimath a landslide-subsidence zone and moved over 60 families to temporary relief centers. A few hotels, a gurdwara [a sacred place of worship for Sikhs], and two inter-colleges were acquired to serve as makeshift shelters to accommodate around 1.5K residents.[3]
    • The cause of the cracks has not yet been confirmed. However, state disaster management officials believe a faulty drainage system may have caused water seepage under the houses that led to the sinking of the land.[4]
    • On Friday, the state government announced it would pay displaced families ₹4K ($50) per month for up to six months if they wish to move to rented accommodations. All construction activities in the affected area have been temporarily halted, including the ambitious Char Dham all-weather road project that aims to connect four major Hindu pilgrimage sites.[5]
    • Meanwhile, religious leader Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati has testified to the Supreme Court, requesting the sinking town be declared a national disaster. The Court has set a Jan. 16 date for the next hearing.[6]


    Establishment-critical narrative

    Joshimath's sinking is just the start. The government must conduct a scientific study of hill towns to determine their carrying capacity, both for the benefit of tourists and locals. It is also necessary to closely regulate rampant infrastructure development in the fragile Himalayan ecosystem, as Joshimath's sinking may have been due to the multiple ongoing hydroelectric projects and rapid expansion of roads in the area. The incident serves as a grave reminder that if the establishment keeps interfering with the delicate environment, incidents like this might soon sink the whole state.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    Ecology and the economy must go hand in hand. Joshimath is a gateway to prominent pilgrimage sites like Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib, as well as the famous skiing resort Auli. Halting current development projects will adversely affect the locals who depend on tourism for their livelihood. It is essential to explore the hidden opportunities for sustainable mountain development — not criticize the government for nation-building activities. A well-balanced governance system is key to averting natural and man-made disasters in the Himalayas.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 52% chance that there will be a non-BJP Prime Minister of India before 2030, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

    Establishment split



    More neutral establishment stance articles