A preliminary report published by the Indian Space Research Organisation’s National Remote Sensing Center on Friday about the rapid subsidence in Joshimath was taken down from its website.
Preliminary Report on Joshimath
Joshimath, a small town situated in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is situated in the upper reaches of the Himalayas and serves as the gateway to several popular trekking and skiing destinations. The town is also known for its ancient temples, including the famous Narsingh Temple, which is believed to have been built in the 8th century AD by the Hindu sage Shankaracharya. Joshimath is also home to one of the four mathas (monasteries) established by Shankaracharya.
The preliminary report by the ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) showed that the town of Joshimath went through a rapid subsidence event. Beginning in April 2022, the town dropped 7 cm owing to slow subsidence. However, according to ISRO satellite data, the town area has sunk by 5 cm in just twelve days since December 27, 2022.
Memorandum by the NDMA
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has instructed numerous government agencies not to interact with the media and not to share any data regarding this on social media. The reason for this is that this information may cause confusion among the residents and citizens of the country.
Uttarakhand cabinet minister Dhan Singh Rawat told the media that the report by ISRO created a lot of panic among residents. That’s why they were asked to only issue official notifications and not to post anything on the website like that. He also elaborated that they should only speak the truth, and if not, then they must remove it from the website.
He stated that the instruction from NDMA came after the Uttarakhand government made sure that any such document before release must get the approval of either the state or the central government.
Rawat further said, that the government has requested the NDMA and that he has personally spoken to the ISRO director. “The main motive behind this is to make sure there is no panic among people. People here are already troubled.”
In its memorandum, NDMA has written that many government organizations are releasing data related to the matter with their own interpretation. This is creating a lot of confusion among the people. Hence, they requested all the government organizations not to talk to the media and not to publish anything until an official report is released by an official expert group of the NDMA.
Response from Oppositions
In response to this, Congress President Kharge stated in his tweet that instead of solving the disaster and solving the problems of the public, a ban has been imposed on the reports of government agencies. He further tweeted, “Narendra Modiji, Do not Shoot the Messenger.”
Former Chief Minister Harish Rawat termed it “unfortunate,” as such incidents require public awareness. If this matter is openly discussed, then varying views regarding it will come out, which will help other agencies to clarify things.
According to Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi, this memorandum was literally a gag order to keep the people of the country unaware of what’s happening in Joshimath.
Current Situation of Joshimath
Joshimath has now been declared a “disaster prone” area after more than 600 houses were evacuated because it had developed cracks due to gradual land subsidence. Over 147 houses have been so far termed “unsafe.” Two hotels that had developed severe cracks were demolished under the supervision of the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI).
For the past few days, Joshimath has been gradually sinking. Experts believe it was mostly caused by unplanned construction, with other factors including overpopulation, blockage of the natural flow of water, and various hydel power activities.