The imperiled Himalayan settlement of Joshimath went down 5.4cm within days
The central part of the Indian town of Joshimath sank by as much as 5.4cm sometime between late December and early January, the Indian space agency reports. The popular tourist location is prone to sinking over time, partially due to infrastructure development.
A report by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was released on Wednesday and detailed changes detected by satellite observation in Joshimath. A rapid subsidence event was triggered sometime between December 27, 2022 and January 8, 2023, the National Remote Sensing Centre said. According to witness accounts, it most likely happened around January 2, it added.
The report included a map of the affected area, which was confined to the center of Joshimath. The elevation changes varied between 1 and 5.4cm, according to the data.
ISRO observations over the past year detected a slow subsidence of up to 9cm over a period of nine months, the report said.
Joshimath is located in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand on the slope of a hill and is a popular destination for pilgrims and tourists. There are several temples in the area, including in the town of Badrinath, around 45km away. Joshimath accommodates people as they travel to these locations.
However, the location of the settlement has inherently fragile Himalayan geology and treacherous environments. Thousands of people have been killed over the decades of its existence from natural disasters, including earthquakes, landslides, flash floods, and avalanches. The Uttarakhand floods in February 2021 alone claimed over 80 lives, with more than 120 people missing.
Subsidence has affected Joshimath for some time, with the impact magnified by the depletion of groundwater for irrigation and the rapid development of infrastructure, including the construction of hydropower plants, according to scientists.
Soil movements damage roads and walls, often making people’s homes unsafe to live in. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami ordered a mass evacuation last week, after a survey conducted by the district administration found deep cracks in 603 buildings in the town.
January 13, 2023 at 02:31PM