Residents in several towns in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, India, are raising concerns about the safety of their homes as cracks have begun to appear in buildings due to ongoing construction work.
The crisis began in January in Joshimath, where an aquifer burst in a hydropower project tunnel caused cracks in the town's buildings to widen, leading to panicked residents demanding action. Since then, similar issues have been reported in towns such as Karnaprayag, Uttarkashi, Guptkashi, Rishikesh, Nainital, and Mussoorie.
In Karnaprayag, locals fear a fate similar to Joshimath's as work continues on the Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail line and the Char Dham all-weather road projects. According to the town's tehsildar, Surendra Dev, the worst-affected areas are CMP Bend, ITI Colony, and Bahuguna Nagar. Over two dozen houses in Bahuguna Nagar have developed large cracks and the roofs of a few homes are hanging precariously. Locals claim that "rampant construction activity, hill-cutting work for the Char Dham road project, and population pressure have complicated an already difficult situation" in the town.
In Rishikesh, at least 85 houses in Atali village have developed cracks, which locals attribute to ongoing railway tunnel work as part of the Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail project. Cracks and land subsidence have also been reported in Tehri Garhwal, particularly in the tiny hamlet of Chamba, where residents are fearing landslides and pressing for immediate action.
Similarly, a section of the road in Mussoorie's Landour bazaar is "gradually sinking" and has developed widening cracks.
In Nainital, cracks reappeared on the Lower Mall Road in 2018 and a portion of the road has sunk into Naini lake. In Agastyamuni block of Rudraprayag, more than a dozen families in Jhalimath Basti are on the verge of displacement after cracks appeared in their houses. Guptkashi town in Rudraprayag district has also reported "sinking" in a few areas.
The issue of land subsidence has also been reported near Vivekananda Parvatiya Agricultural Research Institute in Almora.
Overall, residents in these towns are concerned that the ongoing construction work, including big-ticket projects like the Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail line and the Char Dham all-weather road, are putting their homes and livelihoods at risk. They are calling for immediate action to address the problem and ensure the safety of their communities.