Joshimath a warning sign for hilly states: Uttarakhand minister - Hindustan Times
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Joshimath a warning sign for hilly states: Uttarakhand minister

Mar 12, 2023 05:01 AM IST

Joshimath, the gateway town to the Badrinath shrine, was declared a landslide-subsidence zone in January after cracks developed in houses and hundreds of families had to be evacuated to safer areas.

DEHRADUN: The Joshimath crisis is “alarming” as such disasters are occurring in urban areas of Uttarakhand, state’s forest minister Subodh Uniyal said in New Delhi.

Homes in mountains will also have stricter codes, especially in the wake of subsidence in Uttarakhand’s Joshimath. (PTI)
Homes in mountains will also have stricter codes, especially in the wake of subsidence in Uttarakhand’s Joshimath. (PTI)

“Until now, disasters used to take place in remote interior parts of the state. The latest example of Joshimath is alarming and the way such events have started taking place in urban areas,” Uniyal said at the third session of the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction on Friday. “Roads are being constructed in hills for which blasting is done. Somewhere or the other, it is shaking the hills. We need to look into these reasons.”

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Also Read: Panel of experts says cracks have reappeared in Joshimath

Joshimath, the gateway town to the Badrinath shrine, was declared a landslide-subsidence zone in January after cracks developed in houses and hundreds of families had to be evacuated to safer areas.

Addressing a ministerial session on “Strengthening of Disaster Management systems in the States”, he said: “Hilly states are different from other parts of the country. We need to make a separate policy for hill states taking into account geology, weather, botanical and wildlife, and river dynamics. In hilly states, earthquakes, landslides, glacier melting, cloudburst, and forest fires are common. Most disasters occur in the monsoon season.”

He also stressed upon cooperation and coordination between state, interstate and central institutions to deal with such problems. Underlining the sensitivity of the Himalayan states, Uniyal drew attention towards the formation of a separate policy and efforts to make such states disaster-proof and emphasised on importance to involve panchayati raj institutions and voluntary organisations in the event of a disaster.

The concept of development needs to be redefined given soil properties, carrying capacity and water availability in the Himalayan region and building by-laws were required to reduce the burden on the surface, the minister said. There is a need for proper arrangements for the drainage of water generated from sources other than rain, Uniyal said.

“The biggest problem is the drainage system. Constructions take place everywhere, but there is no proper drainage system,” he said, adding that inadequate drainage in Joshimath might have caused the land subsidence problem.

Describing climate change as a matter of concern for Himalayan states, he said authorities should have the necessary techniques and resources in place to tackle floods from glacial lake outbursts.

Forest fires are also a major concern, as 72% of Uttarakhand is forested, he said.

“Community participation is important to tackle forest fires. I am happy to share that we have over 11,230 van panchayats (forest councils). We have constituted a forest fire management committee in every gram sabha (village council),” he said. “At the district level, we have constituted such committees in chairmanship of district magistrate, and at the state level, in the chairmanship of chief secretary.”

Uttarakhand is prone to natural disasters that include cloudbursts, landslides, glacial lake outbursts, earthquakes, flash floods and land subsidence. The recent phenomenon of land subsidence has exposed the region’s vulnerability. Over 868 buildings have been damaged due to land subsidence, and 995 people of 296 affected families have been living in relief camps or rented houses since January.

Uttarakhand reported over 7,750 extreme rainfall events and 1,961 landslides since 2015, according to official data.

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