On Government's Report on Causes of Joshimath Disaster

For the past eight months, the Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti has been demanding to make public the report of the committee comprising experts from eight scientific institutions. This committee was formed by the government to assess the situation and identify the causes for the disaster. This report was published by a group of independent scientists at the behest of the people of Joshimath, who took to intense public protests. The earlier report by the independent scientists had held responsible the government policy and the heavy constructions underway in Tapovan Vishnugad Hydroelectric Project. It said that the man-made calamity was brought about by the construction of Helang bypass and other road projects nearby.

Despite the news in the local media that the report has been published by the government, the Joshimath Bachai Sangharsh Samiti has not yet been provided with a copy of the same. CM Pushkar Singh Dhami had promised this committee on April 8th, 2023 to make this report public within a week. However, it is only now under the pressure of the Uttarakhand High Court that this order has been made available, but the same has not been published for the consumption of the people of Joshimath.

In response to a PIL, the Uttarakhand High Court said, "We see no reason that the State should keep the reports prepared by the experts secret, and should not disclose the same to the public". Eight scientific institutions, including Central Building Research Institute, Geological Survey of India, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, National Geophysical Research Institute, Central Ground Water Board, Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, National Institute of Hydrology and IIT, Roorkee, were assigned to submit reports to the National Disaster Management Authority in January 2023, after the intervention of the high court previously. The government chose to keep this report a secret which reportedly blames the construction activity in the spring zone that triggered seismic activities causing land subsidence in Joshimath town.

The convener of the Sangharsh Samiti and CPIML leader Atul Sati said that the delay in making this report public itself raises questions on the intentions of the government. The government had even censured the concerned scientists from making public statements and expressing opinions on this subject.

He further said that despite having learnt from the media that this government report gave a clean chit to the NTPC project, it is not clear whether institutes like GSI retains their opinion and recommendations made earlier. “While the latest report recommends ban on constructions, then why is it that NTPC’s hydroelectric project being allowed to continue?”, he asked. Moreover, with the expansion of the human habitat, a plan or recommendation has to be made for an alternative site for Joshimath residents, and this requires an entirely new project, he added.

On Government's Report on Causes of Joshimath Disaster