Dozens of houses perched atop a hill in a village in Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda district have collapsed or developed cracks, forcing hundreds to flee their homes and sparking fear of a Joshimath-like emergency.
Officials claim the problem is restricted to one locality — Nai Basti in Thathri — and rebutted reports equating it to Joshimath. Doda district is part of Chenab Valley, the powerhouse of Jammu and Kashmir and home to several major completed or under-construction hydro-electricity projects.
More than half-a-dozen power projects, including Rattle and Dal Husti, are under varying stages of completion.
Thathri municipal committee chairman Mansoor Ahmad Bhat attributed the problem to sewage seeping into the hill in the absence of a proper drainage system, but he did not rule out the possibility of damage caused by under-construction dams for hydro-electricity projects coming up in the area.
“Some people are linking it to Joshimath but only experts can find out what is actually happening. Two dams are coming up around 6-7km away where blasting for the construction of tunnels keeps happening,” Bhat told The Telegraph.
“People are extremely scared. Around 20 houses have either collapsed or suffered extensive damage. Around 20 more have developed small cracks. I fear around 100 houses spread over 1km will be hit in the next few days.” Bhat said the nearby national highway had also been damaged and traffic had been diverted to an alternative road.
“We do not know what is the reason. The entire Chenab Valley is a hilly area. When you play with nature, such things can happen,” he said.
Subdivisional magistrate of Thathri, Athar Amin Zargar, said equating Thathri with Joshimath was wrong and experts from the Geological Survey of India were figuring out the cause.
“It is confined to part of a locality measuring 500 metres by 20 metres. The nearest (already constructed) dam is 60-70km away. Some 10 houses have collapsed and 10 more are showing cracks. Around 400 people have shifted from the area,” he said.
Bhat said the locality was largely home to people affected by militancy who had migrated from villages and settled atop a hill.
“There were few houses there before 1990 but dozens of families made it their home over decades. There is no drainage system and water used by people has no outlet due to which it seeps into the soil, thereby loosening it over time,” he said.
The locals said no top officials from outside the district had visited the area and people had been largely left to fend for themselves.
“We are poor people and need to be rehabilitated. Most of us have shifted to homes of relatives in nearby localities. The government should arrange some proper accommodation for us,” a woman said. Officials said a team of geologists had visited the spot.