Drawing the line – Infrastructure Development & Disasters Case Study | 28 September 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the co-relation between infrastructure development projects in Hilly Areas and disasters caused by them. It is a case study of Uttarakhand's Joshimath town sinking due to infrastructure development.


  • GS3: Disaster and Disaster Management


  • The temple town of Joshimath in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand has been sinking since early January 2023, with cracks appearing on residential and commercial structures.
  • The situation has led to a humanitarian crisis, with people fleeing and taking refuge in tents and open spaces, fearing that their homes would crumble.
  • The land subsidence phenomenon has been attributed to tunnelling activities from the Tapovan Vishnugad power project being developed by the National Thermal Power Corporation.
  • There are also concerns about groundwater depletion and increased urbanization that encourage faulty construction.


  • State Disaster Management Authority's Response:
    • To address these concerns, the Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority commissioned eight reputed institutions to study the land-subsidence phenomenon from multiple angles.
    • However, the Authority banned the public dissemination of information from scientists involved with the institutions on the grounds that satellite imagery pictures of the subsurface in Uttarakhand were aggravating “panic” and that information was to be shared only after it was “cleared” by the Centre.
    • This led to a delay in making the information public, despite reports of all institutions being available for months.
    • It took a strong rebuke from the High Court of Uttarakhand last week for the State authorities to make this information public.
  • Risks Underlying Infrastructure Development in Uttarakhand:
    • The Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee, pointed out that 99% of construction in the region did not comply with the mandatory building codes.
    • The National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee, in its report, said that the network of springs, drainage systems, and areas of subsidence may influence land subsidence and there was a need to monitor them.
    • Overall, the tenuous geology made city-like infrastructure projects risky, and strict town-planning and construction measures were necessary to minimize the risk from accidents and a loss of lives.

Way Forward:

  • While there is a legitimate case for ensuring that citizens in the hill States are not denied basic amenities and the opportunities for material advancement, it is incumbent upon governments to take hard decisions that are sustainable as against those that are aimed to score in the next election.
  • A necessary step is in ensuring that information on the risks is widely disseminated and communicated in a way that it becomes a part and parcel of public life. Independent scientific counsel must form the backbone of policymaking, and clear lines must be drawn around the limits to development in the region.

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