Joshimath Sinking Not Linked To Power Project: Minister To NDTV

Power minister RK Singh on Thursday told NDTV the land sinking in Uttarakhand's Joshimath was not linked to a nearby project by the country's largest power producer, state-run NTPC, countering allegations by residents and activists of irresponsible construction.

The minister's statement is the highest endorsement yet for NTPC which said last week that its tunnelling and other work cannot be blamed for the cracks in the town of about 20,000 people, which is a gateway to Hindu and Sikh shrines, besides drawing trekkers to parts of the Himalayas.

"Joshimath sprung up unplanned on the remains of a large slide. It was known as far back as 1975. The (NTPC) project started in 2009, while the problem started decades earlier. So the problem is not because of this project," Mr Singh said in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Under immense pressure from locals, the Uttarakhand government, also under the BJP which rules at the centre, has said it will probe whether the power firm was responsible for the sinking of land in Joshimath and eight institutes will investigate its cause.

Local people have alleged that the digging of a 12-km tunnel for the 520 MW Tapovan Vishnugarh hydroelectric project exacerbated the subsidence in the area. The Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (JBSS), a pressure group of locals, has demanded that the project be scrapped.

In a statement denying any role in the shifting soil, NTPC last week said, "The tunnel built by NTPC does not pass under Joshimath town. This tunnel is dug by a tunnel boring machine (TBM) and no blasting is being carried out currently."

But the top district official in Joshimath, Himanshu Khurana, said work on the NTPC plant has now stopped, and the central and the state governments have taken note of the allegations of damage due to this plant.

"Many government agencies and institutes such as the Geographical Survey of India (GSI), National Geophysical Research Institute, National Institute of Hydrology, and the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology are studying this issue, and we are hopeful that they will come up with an expert opinion on this. We will take further action based on the report of the experts," Mr Khurana told news agency PTI.

The cracks in some 700 buildings in Joshimath - around a fourth of the total - have prompted the evacuation of thousands. Last week, authorities began demolishing unsafe buildings, starting with two hotels leaning dangerously.

Originally Published at NDTV News Search Records Found 1000

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