India: Hundreds Evacuated as Himalayan Town Sinks

On Sunday, authorities in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand declared Joshimath — a sacred Himalayan town — a landslide-subsidence zone.

India: Hundreds Evacuated as Himalayan Town Sinks
Image credit: PTI


  • On Sunday, authorities in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand declared Joshimath — a sacred Himalayan town — a landslide-subsidence zone. Over 60 families have been moved to temporary relief centers after about 600 of the nearly 4.5K buildings in the town developed huge cracks over the past week.
  • A few hotels, a gurdwara, and two inter-colleges have been acquired to serve as makeshift shelters to accommodate around 1.5K people as more than 90 families are expected to be evacuated in the coming days.
  • 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.
  • 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 Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious Char Dham all-weather road project that aims to connect four major Hindu pilgrimage sites.
  • Meanwhile, religious leader Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati has testified to the Supreme Court, requesting the sinking town be declared a national disaster and arguing that "no development is needed at the cost of human life and their ecosystem."

Sources: Live Mint, Ndtv, Associated Press, Free Press Journal, Abc, and Zee.


  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by MoneyControl. 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 benefits of tourists and locals. It is also necessary to more 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, as provided by DownToEarth. 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.