Joshimath, Uttarakhand: In yet another grim chapter of Uttarakhand's ongoing struggles with natural disasters, 38 families in the subsidence-prone village of Pagnau, near Joshimath, are being forcibly relocated due to the constant threat of landslides.
A team comprised of members from the Chamoli district administration and geological experts recently visited Pagnau, where they witnessed the recurring peril of landslides. These experts recommended the immediate relocation of families residing perilously close to the hillsides.
Kumkum Joshi, the sub-divisional magistrate of Joshimath, stated, "We have made the decision to move families from these vulnerable areas. The village has been experiencing continuous landslides, with three houses suffering severe damage in a major landslide just this past Monday. Currently, there are 38 families living in the high-risk zone."
Joshi further explained, "We are currently evaluating the cost of the affected houses and land. This number may rise as we continue our assessment. Our initial plan is to facilitate temporary relocation, and subsequently, we will make permanent arrangements for these families."
Rima Devi, the panchayat chief, revealed the extent of the damage in Pagnau over the past two months, saying, "In the past two months, 11 houses have been destroyed due to landslides. Moreover, a government school, a forest department outpost, and an anganwadi center have also succumbed to the frequent landslides. We had previously shifted 17 families to a safer area temporarily. Now, officials have identified 38 more houses. We are hopeful that all 55 families will soon be permanently resettled in a safer location."
Meanwhile, in the nearby village of Kaunja, residents have also expressed their fears and demanded relocation to safer areas. The area has suffered significant damage due to falling boulders from the hills during heavy rains.
Rama Singh, a resident of Kaunja, stated, "45 families are at risk, and we have nowhere else to go. We have petitioned the government to relocate us, as Kaunja is no longer a safe place."
Nand Kishore Joshi, the district disaster management officer of Chamoli, reassured that the government is aware of the problem and will soon begin "treatment" of the landslide-prone zones to prevent further erosion.
The town of Joshimath itself has been grappling with land subsidence, with over 850 houses and 50 road segments developing cracks between January and August 2023 due to land sinking. Approximately 145 families have accepted the state government's rehabilitation package, totaling Rs 31 crore, and have relocated to peripheral areas or other safer locations. However, numerous families are still residing in government-provided shelters, hoping for better options.