India’s sinking towns are concerning

If potholes between roads aren’t scary enough, welcome to a country with massive sinking potholes that are enough to gobble up your cars and your buildings all at once.


This is a tale that Joshimath, a town in Uttrakhand with a population of 20000 people is witnessing right now. The roads, buildings, towns, and temples in the town have developed massive cracks and people are being evacuated from their homes. 


Now while this is a natural disaster, maybe it’s not so natural after all.


Let’s introduce you to land subsidence.


Has it ever happened that the land you are standing on suddenly gives in and forms a massive pit? No? Just in your dreams? Well, that’s it!


And land subsidence is something for which people are pointing fingers at each other right now, starting from Border Roads Organization.


BRO is being blamed because of their construction of a new bypass using some heavy machinery in the mountains. The continuous construction seems to be weakening the land structure. 


Others are blaming the overdevelopment in Joshimath where the tours and treks for tourists are depreciating the town. Since the town was actually built on the debris of a landslide, you can imagine that it was never safe, to begin with. 


But let’s step away from pointing fingers for a second and focus on a major problem – hydropower projects


Hydropower projects promise an eco-friendly energy generation with a safe future. But this safe future is what is jeopardizing the present. Renewable energy projects that are ‘green’ and use the power of the Himalayan rivers are actually a major threat which is possibly the main problem for Joshimath too — the Tapovan Vishnugad Hydro Power Project by government-owned NTPC. 


These projects require water – A LOT OF WATER! Especially in the mountains where you are fighting gushing water flows by establishing dams.


Then comes the underground tunnels and then comes the gigantic power stations. Then come the deep wells and the delegation of wastewater.


And to set all of this up, you need to drill into the hills. And if it’s not done right, it can puncture aquifers — rocks that contain groundwater — and disturb the land underneath our feet. 


You get the point!


Even though the NTPC denies its role in the affair, it’s almost evident that there now are official records that showed NTPC’s tunnel boring machine had punctured rocks with water multiple times in the past. And one by one, all these transgressions might have led to this crisis today. 


This problem isn’t limited to Joshimath only. Unchecked massive projects with a lot of room for error are a threat to every city or town, and the government needs to ensure the safety of all the people before even initiating a project like this.

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