Eight institutes give an array of reasons for Joshimath’s sinking

Eight institutes give an array of reasons for Joshimath's sinking

Eight institutes give an array of reasons for Joshimath’s sinking


Separate investigations into the causes of land subsidence in Joshimath, Uttarakhand, by eight eminent Indian institutions, identified seismic activity, construction flaws, population pressure, inadequate drainage systems, and other factors as the “likely” causes of the Himalayan town’s sinking.

Where is Joshimath Located at?

  • Joshimath is situated in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is a town located in the Garhwal area of the Indian Himalayas in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Joshimath is a crucial trekking and pilgrimage centre in Uttarakhand, especially for people going to the surrounding holy temples of Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib.
  •  The town is renowned for its scenic beauty and for serving as a regional hub for adventure and religious tourism.
  • It is one of the four cardinal mathematics or monasteries founded by Adi Shankara, the others being Joshimath near Badrinath in Uttarakhand, Dwarka in Gujarat, Puri in Odisha, and Sringeri in Karnataka.

What is the environmental issue faced by the place?

Joshimath has been dealing with a serious environmental problem called land subsidence. The progressive sinking or settling of the Earth’s surface is referred to as land subsidence, and it can have major repercussions for the stability and safety of the impacted area. Joshimath is sinking 6cm per year causing concerns among the people living there

What are the differences between Land Subsidence and Landslides?

  • Landslides and land subsidence are two different geological processes.
  •  The gradual, frequently undetectable lowering or settling of the Earth’s surface over time as a result of things like groundwater extraction or geological movements is known as land subsidence.
  •  Landslides, on the other hand, are sudden, erratic movements of rock, soil, or debris down slopes, frequently brought on by conditions like intense rainfall or seismic activity.
  •  Landslides are limited occurrences with material sliding over specified surfaces, whereas subsidence affects large areas and is characterized by a consistent downward movement.
  •  Infrastructure can slowly deteriorate due to subsidence, yet quickly suffer catastrophic destruction from landslides, putting people’s lives and property in danger.

What are the factors that led to the Land Subsidence? 

  • Geological Factors: A region of the Indian Himalayas known for its geological instability is where the town is located. The location may be prone to subsidence due to the underlying geology, which includes the types of rocks and soil in the area.
  • Seismic Activity: The Himalayan region is notorious for its seismic activity, and earthquakes can cause subsidence and ground movement. The risk is heightened by nearby tectonic activity and active fault lines.
  • Construction Practices: Non-engineered construction practices have been listed in reports as one of the contributing elements. Joshimath has a large number of structures that do not adhere to building rules, and poor building practices can cause soil subsidence.
  • Population Pressure: Over time, the town has seen both population increase and urbanization. The development of infrastructure to support the growing population may place further strain on the environment.
  • Poor Drainage: Poor drainage can cause waterlogging and soil erosion, which may aggravate land subsidence.
  • Environmental Factors: Subsidence can also be caused by environmental factors such as ice melting, precipitation infiltration, and wastewater discharge.

What are the means through which we can stop the Land Subsidence?

  • Better Engineering Practices:
    •  Make sure construction is carried out following the law by enforcing building codes and regulations.
    • Encourage the use of designed building techniques and materials to prevent subsidence.
  • Monitoring and Early Warning systems:
    • Establish a thorough monitoring system that incorporates geological, hydrological, and seismic monitoring to identify concerns associated with subsidence.
    • Install early warning systems that can notify local government officials and citizens of probable subsidence incidents.
  • Planning and management of infrastructure: 
    • Create urban and infrastructure planning plans that take into account the local geology and environment.
    • To reduce the risk of subsidence, ensure good site selection for important infrastructure, such as dams and hydropower plants.
  • Improved Drainage Systems:
    • To control surplus water, stop soil erosion, and lessen water infiltration into the ground, design and maintain efficient drainage systems.
    • Manage wastewater and stormwater properly to reduce their negative effects on the subsurface.
  • Environment protection
    • As they can aid in soil stabilization and lower the risk of subsidence, preserve natural plants and ecosystems.
    • Put erosion control measures in place to safeguard susceptible regions.
  • Management of Water:
    • To avoid over-extraction of groundwater, which can cause land subsidence, implement sustainable groundwater management techniques.
    • Reduce dependency on groundwater for agriculture and other uses and encourage the use of other water sources.