JOSHIMATH A Sinking Story

Incidence of land subsidence has been increasing in the Himalayas. While the issue caught national and then world-wide attention with Joshimath in early January, evidence of sinking terrain soon began pouring in from other parts of the fragile mountain region, leading to a growing clamour of alarm bells, reports Asha Ramachandran

JOSHIMATH A Sinking Story

By – Asha Ramachandran

Environmentalists and geo-scientists appear to have been vindicated. Sincedecades they have been cautioning against unplanned development in the Himalayas. Yet, popular demand, a ready source of income, rising energy needs and security concerns have combined to throw all caution to the wind – or should one say down the mountains.

When news broke on 6 January, that the holy town of Joshimath in Uttarakhand was sinking, it came as no surprise to many who know the region but made the world sit up and gasp.

It has taken a Joshimath-scale calamity to grab people’s attention but indifference to destruction of the fragile Himalayan mountains and unfettered development, often brought on by unrestricted tourism, has been underway for decades now.

Meanwhile, reports of land subsidence are pouring in from several other hill towns across Uttarakhand and other hill states. Experts and locals have blamed rampant infrastructure development in a very fragile ecosystem like Himalayas for the present mess in Joshimath.

Many also blamed ongoing projects like NTPC’s hydropower projects and tunnels in and around Joshimath, that involved blasts and drilling in the mountains, have damaged the ecological balance of the region.


The saga of Joshimath sinking is exactly the chronicle of a death foretold. In fact, it’s been foretold for 30 years, from a 1976 MC Misra Commission report to the 2006 report from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology.