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Joshimath Crisis: What does “land subsidence” mean, and why does it happen?

Joshimath, the gateway to mountain climbing expeditions, trekking, and other thrilling activities for those who want to live on the edge, has been affected by land subsidence, a geological phenomenon....

Joshimath, the gateway to mountain climbing expeditions, trekking, and other thrilling activities for those who want to live on the edge, has been affected by land subsidence, a geological phenomenon. Homes and other man-made structures in the 20,000-person city began to crack in recent months, forcing many families to abandon their homes and relocate to safer areas.

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Why In The News?

  • Recently Uttarakhand’s Joshimath Experienced An Enormous Landslide Incidence Leading To The Development Of Various Cracks. This Area Saw A Rapid Sinking Of 5.4 Cm In Just 12 Days, According To A Report By ISRO.
  • Satellite Images Released By ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre Show The Town Sank 5.4 Cm Between December 27 And January 8. The Report, Quoting Witnesses, Said The Massive Soil Sinking Occurred Due To “A Rapid Subsidence Event That Was Triggered On January 2, 2023.”

What Is Land Subsidence?

  • Land Subsidence Is The Sinking Of The Ground Because Of Underground Material Movement. It Can Be Caused By Gradual Settling Or Sudden Sinking Of The Earth’s Surface.
  • The Causes For Subsidence Generally Are:
  • Natural Causes – Earthquakes, Soil Compaction, Erosion, Glacial Adjustment, Sinkhole Formation, Etc.
  • Resource Extraction – Extracting Resources Such As Oil, Water, Minerals, Natural Gas, Etc. From The Ground By Mining, Fracking, Or Pumping.
  • Construction Of Infrastructure – Excess Infrastructure Load Above The Carrying Capacity Of The Soil.
Joshimath landslide 11Jan2023 pages to jpg 0004 1019x573 2
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Where Is Joshimath Located?

  • Joshimath Is A Hilly Town Located On The Rishikesh-Badrinath National Highway (NH-7) In The Chamoli District Of Uttarakhand. The City Serves As A Tourist Town As It Acts As An Overnight Rest Stop For People Visiting Badrinath, Auli, Valley Of Flowers, Hemkund Sahib Etc.
  • It Is Also Of Great Strategic Importance And Is Home To One Of The Army’s Most Important Cantonments. It Is Home To One Of The Four Maths (Monasteries) Established By Adi Shankara – Sringeri In Karnataka, Dwarka In Gujarat, Puri In Odisha, And Joshimath Near Badrinath In Uttarakhand.

Reasons For Joshimath Crisis

  • According To Experts, Joshimath City Has Been Built On An Ancient Landslide Material – Meaning It Rests On A Deposit Of Sand And Stone, Not Rock, Which Doesn’t Have High Load-Bearing Capacity. This Makes The Area Extremely Vulnerable To Ever-Burgeoning Infrastructure And Population.
  • Moreover, The Lack Of A Proper Drainage System Might Have Also Contributed To The Sinking Of The Area. Experts Say That Unplanned And Unauthorized Construction Has Led To The Blocking Of The Natural Flow Of Water, Which Eventually Results In Frequent Landslides.
  • Residents Have Also Blamed NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad Hydro Power Project For The Incident. They Allege That The Tunnel Had Water Seepage “From A Punctured Aquifer, Leading To The Drying Of Water Sources In Joshimath.” Experts Suggest That It Could Be One Of The Reasons For The Collapse.
  • However, NTPC Denied The Allegations And In A Statement Said, “The Tunnel Built By NTPC Does Not Pass Under Joshimath Town. This Tunnel Is Dug By A Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) And No Blasting Is Being Carried Out Presently”.

Earlier Warnings Regarding The Fragility Of Area

  • The Possibility Of Such An Incident Happening In The Region Was First Highlighted Around 50 Years When The MC Mishra Committee Report (1976) Was Published And It Cautioned Against “Unplanned Development In This Area And Identified The Natural Vulnerabilities.”
  • The 1991 And 1999 Earthquakes Proved That The Area Is Susceptible To Earthquakes. The Town Fall In High-Risk Seismic Zone-V And Is Traversed By Running Streams With A High Gradient From Vishnuprayag, A Confluence Of The Dhauliganga And The Alaknanda Rivers.
  • Scientists From The Indian Institute Of Remote Sensing, Dehradun, Observed That Joshimath And The Surrounding Areas Have Been Sinking At A Rate Of 6.5 CM (2.5 Inches) Per Year Based On Satellite Data From July 2020 To March 2022. Their Findings Correlate Well With The Base Erosion Of The Joshimath Slope Along The Alaknanda River.
  • Cracks On Walls And Buildings Were First Reported In 2021, As The Chamoli District Of Uttarakhand Experienced Frequent Landslides And Flooding. As Per Reports, The Uttarakhand Government’s Expert Panel In 2022 Found That Several Pockets Of Joshimath Are “Sinking” To Man-made And Natural Factors.
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Impact Of The Joshimath Crisis

  • At Least 66 Families Have Fled The Town While 678 Houses Have Reported Cracks. A Government Official Said That Over 4000 People Have Been Affected So Far. Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami, Visited Joshimath And Held Meetings With Locals And Experts And Announced ₹ 1.5 Lakh As Compensation As A Temporary Measure But Still Working On Actual Compensation Rates.
  • Home Minister Amit Shah Also Led A High-Level Meeting To Review The Situation With Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari, RK Singh, Bhupendra Yadav, And Senior Government Officials At His Home.

Way Ahead For Dealing With The Crisis

  • Regulated Tourism Practice
  • Vigilance And Patrolling
  • Early Warning System
  • Regional Cooperation
  • Area-Specific Sustainable Plan
  • Promote Ecotourism
  • Sustainable Development In Fragile Himalayan Region


  • National Institute Of Disaster Management (NIDM) Is In
  • Kolkata
  • New Delhi
  • Hyderabad
  • Manipur


  • Common Factors Of Wildfire Hazards
  • Volcanic Eruption
  • El-Nino
  • Volcanic Lightning And Thundering
  • All The Above


  • International Day Of Natural Disaster Reduction
  • June 15
  • March 5
  • October 13
  • September 13


  • Head Of National Disaster Management Authority
  • Home Minister
  • Defence Minister
  • Environment Minister
  • Prime Minister


  • National Disaster Management Authority Was Established In
  • 2003
  • 2004
  • 2005
  • 2006


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