Joshimath like ground fissure reports : जोशीमठ एक चेतावनी की घंटी है : वक्त बहुत बड़े खतरे की ओर बढ़ रहा है

जोशीमठ एक चेतावनी की घंटी है, और अगर हम उचित योजना नहीं बनाते हैं और प्रतिक्रिया नहीं करते हैं तो हम प्रलय के दिन की प्रतीक्षा कर रहे हैं। 1 सितंबर 1803 गढ़वाल भूकंप के बाद से उत्तराखंड में  कोई बड़ा भूकंप नहीं नहीं  आया और इस प्रकार यह 1905 के कांगड़ा भूकंप और 1934 के बिहार-नेपाल भूकंप के भूकंपीय अंतराल में स्थित है। उत्तराखंड में एक बड़े भूकंप का खतरा इस प्रकार वास्तविक और गंभीर है और यह किसी भी क्षण आ सकता है। हर एक पल जिसे हम बर्बाद करते हैं, हमें आसन्न बहुत बड़े खतरे की ओर ले जाता है जो निश्चित रूप से हमारे सभी ढांचे को ध्वस्त कर देगा और जोशीमठ की तरह कमजोर और अस्थिर ढलानों पर स्थित सब कुछ नीचे लाएगा। –Author

–by Piyoosh Rautela–

From the appearance of stray ground fissures and ensuing cracks in some houses that could well be brushed aside as being construction defectsJoshimath in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand is presently faced with a serious situation wherein a portion of the town is witnessing active ground subsidence that is reflected in distress of the overlying structures.

Despite the cause of the suddenly aggravated situation in Joshimath not yet being established, reports of ground fissures, related subsidence, and cracks in the houses and other structures have started to pour in from various places across the state; KarnaprayagMussoorieNainital, and others.

Quick and smart at correlating independent and unrelated events, and drawing speculative conjectures media instantaneously attributed the pouring out of water from the hill slope around Marwari in Joshimath to seepage from the tunnel, as also to Dhauliganga tragedy of 2021 in which the tunnels of NTPC’s hydropower project were chocked with the debris brought down by the floodwaters.

Now with the news of ground fissuressubsidence and cracks from other places media has already started to put forth a conjectural hypothesis of a brewing bigger disaster in the region.

Not defying or denying the distress at other places, however, needs to be analyzed if these reports have not sprung up at this very time due to the media-induced fear psychosis in the aftermath of the land subsidence around Joshimath.

More than anything else, it needs to be understood that Joshimath, as reiterated by different experts, is located over an old landslide zone. Though stabilized such an unconsolidated material is however not destined to remain stable at the face of fast-increasing anthropogenic activities and safely carry the load of all these structures that have been erected out here, often defying permissible building codes and safety norms.

Moreover, Joshimath is not the only place disposed of with such vulnerable conditions.

Availability of arable land being a precondition for human settlements, it is no surprise that most habitations in the hills are in the proximity of old landslide zones, as landslide promotes biological and chemical processes required for soil formation. With the passage of time, many of these having favorable dispositions witnessed the concentration of population and developed into towns and cities.

Disposed of with subsurface conditions not very different from Joshimath all these towns and cities could exhibit signs of distress with the increasing pace of human interventions. It can thus be concluded that the fissures and cracks being reported now from many places across the state are not a new phenomenon. Fear psychosis and media attention have however brought these to the fore at this juncture.

Having said so, there is no denying that many towns and cities in the Himalayas, not confined to the geographical limits of Uttarakhand, are faced with distress due to fast-increasing anthropogenic pressure, and require the implementation of a well-planned mitigation strategy on a war footing.


Mitigation strategy

Carrying capacity: To begin with, it needs to be realized that the towns and cities of the region have far exceeded their bearing capacity and the same is getting reflected in the distress being reported from far and wide. It is with this realization and with an intent of setting the house in order that a detailed assessment of the carrying capacity of the towns and cities of the region has to be carried out. All developmental planning has to be then based on this assessment.

Geological condition: Geological and geotechnical properties have a major bearing not only in deciding the stability of the hill slopes but also the bearing capacity of the ground. Detailed investigations are therefore required to understand the geological and geotechnical properties of the rocks and subsurface strata, particularly around major towns and cities. Recommendations of the experts based on these investigations have to be subsequently made an essential ingredient of the developmental planning process.

Decongestion: Rather than overburden existing towns and cities any further, the state needs to create satellite townships with state of art infrastructure and facilities together with connectivity, so that masses are incentivized to settle at these places. This would in turn redistribute the risk and significantly reduce pressure upon existing towns and cities.

Site-specific building bye-laws: Rather than global building bye-laws covering the entire hilly terrain it is required that based on geological and geotechnical assessments and carrying capacity local bye-laws be put in place. Special care would however be required to incorporate provisions that promote lightweight structures with a low carbon footprint.

Land use restrictions: It is urgently required that based upon the multi-hazard risk assessment of the region that Uttarakhand has already undertaken land use regulations be put in place to disallow human intervention of any kind in the areas falling in high risk zones.

Stringent compliance: Compliance of prescribed bye-laws and regulations really holds the key to success and for this stringent enforcement and the punitive regime has to be supplemented by an aggressive risk communication and awareness drive that promotes wilful and voluntary compliance of the prescribed regulations.

Compounding: The regulatory bodies generally settle non-compliant construction by a monetary fine and hence legalize non-compliant construction through payment of a fine which amounts to compromising safety and incentivizing people to flout the regulations.

No compromise should therefore be accepted with safety. It is therefore required urgently that the practice of compounding be scrapped, and all illegal or irregular constructions be necessarily demolished.

Strengthening of regulatory bodies: The entire exercise is to be futile unless local regulatory bodies are strengthened and capacitated, particularly in terms of trained and qualified human resources,s and that too in adequate numbers.

The glitter of structural interventions often tends to put human resource requirements at the back seat, but no system is to yield results unless it is backed by efficient and able manpower.

Risk transfer: Having suffered major losses due to recent incidents people would have certainly realized that they reside in a vulnerable place, and the state cannot compensate for all their losses. It is therefore the right time to make the masses aware of getting their assets insured, so as to get compensated in case of any mishappening.

Many people have a misconception of insurance as being a costly affair.

It, therefore, needs to be aggressively communicated that the insurance rate is only Rs. 0.315 per Rs. 1000 per year, and one can get an insurance policy of Rs. 1.0 crore for one year against a premium of Rs. 3150 only, and that too for 12 different perils that include (i) fire, (ii) lightning, (iii) implosion, (iv) explosion, (v) earthquake, (vi) storm, (vii) tempest, (viii) flood, (ix) inundation, (x) missile test operations, (xi) forest fire and (xii) bursting of the overhead tank.

This can well be done in collaboration with some insurance agency that could at the same time tailor a special policy suiting the needs of the people. This in turn would greatly reduce the burden of disasters on the public exchequer.

Besides promoting insurance of assets the state could at the same time consider making it compulsory as in the case of vehicles, and work out a mechanism of bundling the premium of the same with house tax or other bills paid routinely by people.

To conclude

Uttarakhand has not witnessed a major earthquake since the 1 September 1803 Garhwal Earthquake and is thus located in the Seismic Gap of the 1905 Kangra Earthquake and 1934 Bihar-Nepal Earthquake.

The threat of a major earthquake in Uttarakhand is thus real and grave and it could strike any moment.

Every single moment that we waste thus draws us close to the impending Big One that is sure to crumble all our compromised structures and bring down everything sited over vulnerable and unstable slopes like Joshimath.

Joshimath is a warning bell, and if we do not plan and react appropriately we are waiting dumbfounded for the doomsday.


(The post Joshimath like ground fissure reports appeared first on Risk Prevention Mitigation and Management Forum.)

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