Strong resentment prevails among people here against the government for the indifference with which it treated the warnings about a dangerous situation of buildings in the Himalayan town due to heavy construction activities going on around it. They hold the NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project mainly responsible for the situation.
“We have been drawing the attention of authorities for the past 14 months. But we were not heeded. Now when the situation is getting out of hand, they are sending expert teams to assess things,” Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti convenor Atul Sati said. “If attention was paid in time to what we were saying things would not have been so alarming in Joshimath,” he added.
Land subsidence had made the houses of 14 families insecure in November 2021 itself, Sati recalls.
He said that people held a demonstration following this at the tehsil office on November 16, 2021 demanding rehabilitation and handed a memorandum to the SDM who acknowledged that even the tehsil office premises had developed cracks .
“If the government was aware of the problem why didn’t it act for more than a year to address it? What does that show?” Sati asked.
He said that under the pressure of people immediate steps have been taken like temporary stopping of the NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad project and construction of Helang-Marwari bypass but they are not a permanent solution.
“The threat to Joshimath’s existence will persist until these projects are stalled permanently,” he said.
Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti will continue to fight till the very end until it is done, he added. Former Dharmadhikari of Badrinath temple Bhuvan Chandra Uniyal also holds the manner in which the NTPC works for the cracks.
“The tunnel of Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project is located right beneath Joshimath. Big boring machines were brought for its construction which have been stuck in the ground for the past two decades.
Tons of explosives are used on a daily basis for the tunnel’s construction. Land subsidence gained momentum on January 3 due to large amount of explosives used by the NTPC.
Uniyal is also angry with the NTPC for breaking its promise made to people.
“The NTPC had earlier said that construction of the tunnel won’t harm the houses of Joshimath. The company had even promised to do insurance of the infrastructure in town. It would have benefited the people. But it did not keep its word,” he said. “We should be told on the basis of scientific facts what is the future of Joshimath. Is it inhabitable or not. If yes, for how long. If not, then the government should take our land and homes and rehabilitate us or else we would lay down our lives on it,” Uniyal said.