Residents of 'sinking village' Joshimath in Uttarakhand wrote to Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami three times last month, informing him about the blasts that erupted in the nearby NTPC hydel dam, the letter of NDTV show watched. Earthquakes and the first cracks in buildings and roads began to appear due to the explosion in the construction, which is a few kilometers from the holy city, in December itself, when the residents panicked a minister to be a leader to act. However, no preventive measures were taken, residents said. NTPC has ruled out any link between its operations and the Joshimath tragedy.
Residents wrote three letters, each increasing rapidly as the crack widened. The situation has worsened now, more than 600 families were displaced from Joshimath after the temple collapsed and many buildings started to explode.
"We have been requesting the Uttarakhand government and the DM since last year to take note of the blasts at the NTPC tunnels that causes vibrations in the entire area. When our houses started to have initial cracks in December last year, we wrote several letters to the government, but never got any response. The DM visited once, but no action was ever taken to solve the crisis. Now we have reached a point where Joshimath can sink at any point of time," Thakur Singh Rana, a hotelier who has incurred a loss of ₹ 7 crore as his hotel building has developed massive cracks and tilted towards a building, said.
Chamoli district magistrate Himanshu Khurana admitted that the villagers had written to him and the president but he "didn't know what to do". He also said that NTPC told the authorities that it was following all the norms.
“Yes, the community wrote to me and the CM, I went there in December, but honestly I don't know what to do. Because we must first find out why the explosion is happening. Otherwise, anything we do without knowing the reason can also lead us back. That's why I can't do anything," Mr. Khurana replied.
NTPC has ruled out any link between its operations and land acquisition in Joshimath. In an official statement, it said that the NTPC tunnel does not pass under the city and no blasting work is going on at the site at present. He said: "Tunnel boring machines are used to work.
The state government has sprung into action, deploying helicopters and putting rescue and relief operations on high alert as the city, a gateway for many religious pilgrimages, fears sinking. All the construction projects in and around Joshimath in Chamoli district of the state, including major projects like Chardham All-Weather Road (Helang-Marwari Bypass) and hydel project of NTPC, stopped due to demand from residents.
Joshimath is believed to be the winter seat of Lord Badrinath, whose idol is brought from the main Badrinath temple and Vasudeva temple to Joshimath every winter. It is also the entrance to the Sikh Hemkund Sahib shrine. It is part of one of the most seismic zones of the country, which is classified as Zone-V (zone of high intensity).
The agency has appointed a team of experts to conduct a "rapid study" of land subsidence that will assess the impact of land subsidence on human settlements, buildings, roads, infrastructure and river systems.
Locals say climate change and constant infrastructure development are to blame. Experts say that a variety of factors - both human and natural - contributed to the decline. These things are not recent, they have been collected for a long time, said the director of the Institute of Geology of the Himalayas in Wadia, Kalachand Sain.
Joshimath is also home to one of the largest military bases near the India-China border. The crucial Joshimath-Malari road in Chamoli district which is connected to the Chinese border has been cracked in many places due to landslides.
The state government has said that the affected households will be paid Rs 4,000 per month as six months' rent from the President's Relief Fund.