Joshimath Solidarity Statement – जोशीमठ के संघर्ष को समर्थन (in Hindi and English)

PostedonFeb. 13, 2023in Environment and Ecology

Read and download the full statement (Hindi and English) here. पूरा विवरण (हिंदी और अंग्रेजी) यहां पढ़ें और डाउनलोड करें।

Not natural but development policy induced disasters in the Himalaya! Solidarity Statement with the ongoing struggle for justice and accountability in Joshimath! 

We as representatives of diverse social organisations, environmentalists and concerned citizens from across the Himalayan region and other parts of the country, express grief  and concern for the people of Joshimath, facing forced displacement from their homes in the thick of winters. It is indeed the gravest tragedy not a mere ‘disaster’ – to witness the  collapse of one’s own lands. It’s a tragedy that will go down in contemporary Himalayan history, its trauma reverberating not just with the people of the entire region but across  generations. Every person residing in the region who lives in areas that have seen such disasters in the last few years or is living under the threat of such displacement can relate to the distress and fear that the people of Joshimath are spending their days and nights with. 

A long history of invitation to disaster 

The tragedy unfolding in Joshimath has once again forced us to accept and believe that the spate of disasters we are witnessing in the Himalaya are certainly not ‘natural’ but constructed in the era of modern capitalist development. It is time that we stop fooling ourselves with myths and legends of nature’s wrath and blame fury of the gods and start facing the demons that exist  in the form of our economic and political systems of governance that have brought upon us  these losses. How can we turn away from the following facts that have emerged in the case  of the Joshimath situation: 

1. That the ancient pilgrim town of Joshimath perched at 6000 feet was already sitting on the debris of an historical landslide – a phenomenon not uncommon across the Himalayan region.  What we also already know is that the Himalayan ecology and geology is more varied, complex and sensitive to certain kinds of land use changes in comparison to flat regions. That close to 50 years ago the commissioner of Garhwal M.C Mishra in an official report had warned of the  geological conditions of Joshimath and made recommendations for regulation on construction  activity as well as protective measures in the region. 

2. That the governments of erstwhile Uttar Pradesh, later (and now) Uttarakhand, as well as the  local administration seems to have paid no heed to these. In the last few years a series of  development projects including rampant tourism related multi-storied building, highway  widening and other construction for the Char Dham Project, and a 520 MW mega hydropower dam were undertaken in and around the town. The Tapovan Vishnugad project being constructed by NTPC involves the construction of several kilometres long underground tunnel in the wake of which severe damage to local geology, hydrology and landscape has been put on record. 

3. As seen across the Himalayan belt, the upper reaches are especially now witnessing the  unprecedented impacts of global warming and climatic changes in the form of erratic weather  patterns and reducing snow cover. The unpredictability of the resultant climatic events like  floods and landslides has increased. But more importantly the changes in the land use, deforestation, the construction of dams, roads leading to slope instability, dumping of muck, deforestation and related erosion has multiplied the human and environmental impacts of these climatic events.

4. Joshimath is located in the upper reaches of the Ganga river basin in the Alaknanda valley.  The neighbouring Bhagirathi river valley just ten years ago saw the massive Kedarnath tragedy  that killed thousands of people. The Kedarnath flood and its aftermath were a typical  illustration of what we described above – and scientists and environmental experts who studied  the region presented research to establish that the unbridled construction, development  footprint and the cascade of dams multiplied the impact of the flooding. 

5. The most significant reports that made these linkages post the floods was the Ravi Chopra Committee report tabled in front of the Supreme Court and amongst all other recommendations it recommended a review of the proposed hydropower dams in both the Alaknanda and  Bhagirathi river valleys. However, the Ministry of Environment and Forests refused to accept these and the recommendations of another committee with the same views. 

6. The ambitious Char Dham highway expansion project for which a bypass was being built  through Joshimath also received flak and unfavorable views from local residents, activists and  environmentalists not just for the extent of erosion being caused but also because of the series of brazen violations of environmental norms especially related to muck dumping. Debris and  muck dumping along rivers has emerged as the biggest contributors to flash floods, a threat for  downstream areas. 

7. It is shocking to note that these projects were given repeated clean chits – from the Geological Survey of India to the Ministry of Environment to the disaster management authorities nor the regional pollution control boards and forest departments – it seems that every authority had failed to execute their duties when dealing with these developments. It’s even more laughable that the Municipal authorities have pointed fingers at local residents for constructing multi-storey building when all authorities including the MC were complicit in granting permissions to the spate of these and much larger constructions all around. 

8. In 2021, the Chamoli disaster in the Rishiganga valley upstream of Joshimath once again showed that there are multiple ways in which hydropower projects tend to act as force multipliers in disasters. The underconstruction Tapovan Vishnugad dam acted as a hurdle for the roaring flood which also swept away many workers on site of the project. It came to light that these floods also probably contributed to cutting at the toe of the mountain on which  Joshimath is perched. 

9. Financial Institutions like the Asian Development Bank that have funded the NTPC project and many other such large hydropower dams in the Himalaya in the name of promoting clean  energy also failed to take account of possible risk from these constructions not just prior to implementation but even after the 2021 tragedy. The Bank could have carried out a detailed  review of the project and the (in)adequacy of safeguards. But it did no such thing. 

10. For the residents of Joshimath an added shocker was the dismissal of a Public Interest Litigation that was filed in the Nainital High [Court] bringing to light the threats posed by the NTPC  project. Not only did the court dismiss the petition in the very first hearing but also imposed costs on the five petitioners questioning their motivations and credibility. 

These historical developments indicate how the Joshimath was set up for the current crisis.

The façade of ‘natural disaster’ and ‘All is well’ 

While the current issue of widening cracks in the homes of Joshimath residents was picked up  by the national media only around late December 2022, it was brought to the notice of the  administration a couple of months ago, but the authorities turned a blind eye. It was when ‘Joshimath Sinking’ started trending in the social media that the district administration jumped into action. In the last month or so, 850 homes have been marked with the red cross that is now etched in our minds and close to 3000 people have been evacuated. Alternative arrangements have been made for shelters in hotels with temporary relief for those who have nowhere to go.  As per reports close to 30% of the town stands affected and virtually displaced and there seems  to be a growing trend of cracks in the affected area.Within days of the disaster’s unfolding the ISRO released images indicating that Joshimath had been seeing land subsidence for months and that it had sunk close to 5 cms in a matter of days in the early part of January. This could  have been followed up with more regular official and public scientist accounts of what was  happening in Joshimath but what we had instead was a gag order by the the NDMA – banning scientists associated with government institutions from releasing information around the disaster. 

This was followed by oral statements from the Chief Minister and other representatives of the ruling party, the Chief Secretary, the State Disaster Management Authority – trying to normalise the situation and terming the event a ‘natural’ disaster. Further, when people under  the banner of Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti raised slogans of ‘NTPC GO BACK’, the  government came out to support the company and deny NTPC’s role in contributing to the disaster. The Uttarakhand Chief Minister has also given a statement that ‘development cannot be stopped’ amidst growing demand for an immediate halt to large scale constructions in the  mountain areas as news of similar land slides and subsidence emerged in the wake of the Joshimath crisis. Today when the displaced people of Joshimath are helplessly watching their life long savings being lost, running helter skelter to register their complaints and looking for shelter, carrying out demonstrations for their legitimate concerns – the central government  should have jumped into action to hold NHAI and NTPC accountable – making them first pay for the compensation and arranging relief. The NDMA should have by now come out with a clear rehabilitation and disaster response plan under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act 2005, to be executed before the monsoons which will increase the threat of further subsidence and landslide. 

Who is accountable? 

When the so-called development projects are used to fill up company and state coffers, it is common sense that people who have borne the losses and been put to risk as a result of these  developments must be considered as project affected and rehabilitated and compensated fully from this. The government must uphold the precautionary principle as well as the polluter pays  principle and any rehabilitation plan must invoke the applicable central laws – the Disaster Management Act 2005 and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013. When there is enough scientific  evidence of correlations and the risks associated with such construction in young seismically  active Himalayan geology – why cannot the courts take suo moto action in this matter to ensure that this is done in a timely manner and all gag orders are lifted to put the extent of the risk in  the public domain so that justice to the impacted people is ensured? There isn’t an iota of doubt that the story of Joshimath is actually part of the novel written out  for the entire Himalayan region. If justice is denied to the people of Joshimath today, there is no hope for securing justice anywhere in the Himalaya today and tomorrow. In the name of national interest, development, green energy and holy lands the top down ‘Parvatmala’ policies  will tie us into a thread of destructive and extractive projects from airports, to highways, dams  and commercial tourist centres. This does not reflect the vision nor the voice of the diverse  people – especially the women, dalits and indigenous – inhabiting the mountains for whom this development is spelling more doom. The cost benefit analysis of this development agenda now stands amply visible which is why the people are seeking accountability. If these voices remain unheard a wider struggle to assert our constitutional rights will have to be built. 


1. Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) Sikkim 

2. Bhumiheen Bhumi Adhikar Manch Himachal Pradesh, Baijnath, Himachal Pradesh  3. Campaign to Defend Nature and PeopleLudhiana Punjab  

4. CARE Centre for Amenities, Rehabilitation &Education, Bangalore, Karnataka  5. Centre for Financial Accountability, New Delhi 

6. Centre for Research and Advocacy Manipur, Imphal, Manipur  

7. Chetna Andolan, Dehradun, Uttarakhand  

8. Dakshinbanga Matsyajibi Forum (DMF), West Bengal  

9. Democratic Traditional Fishers and Workers Forum (Andhra Pradesh), RAJAHMUNDRY,  Andhra Pradesh  

10. Friends of the Earth India, New Delhi  

11. Financial Accountability Network India, Delhi 

12. GENE CAMPAIGN, Orakhan, Uttarakhand 

13. Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, Himachal, Pradesh  

14. Himalayn Forest Villagers Organisation, Kalimpong, West Benal  

15. Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh  16. Himlok Jagriti Manch Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh  

17. Himal Prakriti, Uttarakhand 

18. ICAN (Indian Community Activist Network), Delhi  

19. Jaladhara Abhiyan, Jaipur, Rajasthan  

20. JSS MPS Shour Pangi, Chamba, Himachal Pradesh  

21. Kachara Kamgar Union, New Delhi  

22. Kalpavriksh, Pune, Maharashtra  

23. Koshi Nav Nirman Manch, Bihar  

24. Let India Breathe, India  

25. Mahakali Ki Awaz, Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand  

26. Manipur Nature Society, Imphal, Manipur  

27. Media Action and Research Group, Delhi  

28. National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), India 

29. National Platform for Small Scale Fish Workers (NPSSFW), Kolkata, West Bengal 30. No Means No Campaign, Kinnaur Himachal Pradesh  

31. Parvatiya Mahila Adhikar Manch Himachal Pradesh, Kangra  

32. ResistTwo, New Delhi  

33. Samajwadi lok manch, Ramnagar, Uttarakhand  

34. Sambhaavnaa Institute, Kandbari, Palampur, Himachal Pradesh  

35. Save Lahaul Spiti Society, Keylong, Lahaul & Spiti, Himachal Pradesh  36. Shramyog, Dehradun, Uttarakhand 

37. South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, Delhi  

38. Spiti Civil Society, Kaza, Himachal Pradesh  

39. Swacch Association, Nagpur Maharashtra 

40. The Shephard Trails, Sangla, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh  

41. TITLI TRUST, Dehradun, Uttarakhand  

42. United for Nature, Ethics, and Empowerment (UNNATEE), उन्नदत, Pangi, Chamba, HP  43. Urja Foundation wardha Maharashtra, Wardha Maharashtra  

44. Uttar Banga Ban-Jan Shromojibi Manch, Rajabhatkhawa, Alipurduar  45. Uttarakhand Lok Vahini Nainital, Uttarakhand 

46. Uttarakhand Mahila Manch, Munsiari, Uttarakhand 

47. Vanpanchayat sangharsh morcha, Uttarakhand  

48. Yugma Collective, Bangalore and Pune (Karnataka, Maharashtra) 

49. Abha Bhaiya, Jagori rural, Dharamshala Kangra, Himachal Pradesh  50. Ajeet singh, Aslibharat, Dehradun, Uttarakhand  

51. Akshay Bhardwaj, Pangi Sangharsh Samiti, Pangi Chamba, Himachal Pradesh  52. Alex Jensen, Researcher, Local Futures, Ladakh 

53. Aneesh Correa, LeapForWord, Mumbai Maharashtra  

54. Anmol Ohri, Climate Front India, Jammu, J&k  

55. Arun Prasad, Devalsari Socity, Tehari Garhwal, Jaunpur, Uttrakhand 56. Bhanu Tatak, Artist, Dibang Resistance, Lower Dibang Valley, Arunachal Pradesh 57. Dilnavaz Variava, Former Member, NBWL Steering Committee, Mumbai Maharashtra  58. Dr Prem Deep Lal, SAVE CHANDRABHAGA SANGHARSH SAMITI, Lahul Keylong  Himachal Pradesh  

59. Dr Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Chairperson, J&K RTI Movement, Srinagar, J&K  60. Dr.K. B. Obalesh, Thamate-SKSS, Bangalore , Karnataka 560099  

61. Govind Chantranta, President, Ravin Sabha, Village Thana, Teh.Jubbal, Distt.Shimla  Himachal Pradesh.  

62. Govind Devaji Chavan, Coordinator, Janpratinidhi Nivad Mandal, Yavatmal,Maharashtra  63. Gulab Singh, Secretar, Sirmaur Van Adhikar Manch, Shillai Nainidhar  64. Manoj Misra, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, Delhi  

65. Meera Sanghamitra,National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) Telangana  66. O. P Bhuraita, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, HP, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh  67. Prakash Upadhayay, Retd Professor, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi 68. Prafulla Samantara, President, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Bhubaneswar 

69. Professor Ritu Dewan, Director and Head, Mumbai School of Economics &Public Policy,  University of Mumbai, Maharashtra  

70. Rajivlochan Sah, Editor Nainital Samachar, Nanital, Uttarakhand  

71. Shivani Pandey, AISA, Srinagar Garhwal, Uttarakhand  

72. Subhash Mendhapurkar, SUTRA, Solan, Himachal Pradesh  

73. Trilochan Pandey, School for International Training(SIT),New Delhi  74. Uma Bhatt and Sheela Rajbar, Editors UTTARA, Nanital, Uttarakhand  75. Vishal Negi, Youth club Sangla, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh 

76. Zeenat Niazi, Development Alternatives, New Delhi 

77. Aagam, Researcher and Lawyer, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh 

78. Abhayraj Naik, Lawyer and Researcher, Bengaluru, Karnataka 

79. Anuradha Chowdhry, Lawyer, RAMGARH NANITAL, Uttarakhand  80. Ajay, Poet, Kelang, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh 

81. Bharat jhunjhunwala, Writer, Srinagar, Uttarakhand  

82. Bhaskar Upreti, Independent Journalist, Haldwani  

83. Bondita Acharya, Activist, Activist, Jorhat, Assam  

84. Chitra R, Educator, Bengaluru 

85. Dr. Shekhar Pathak, Retd Professor, Kumaon University, Nanital, Uttarakhand 86. Dr Suman Sahai, Scientist, Orakhan, Uttarakhand

87. Hrishikesh Wandrekar, Professor, Mumbai 

88. Karma Sonam, Social Activist and conservationist, Rumtse Leh Ladakh  89. Kavita Upadhyay, Independent journalist and researcher, Nainital, Uttarakhand  90. Kesang Thakur, Researcher, Lahaul and Spiti, Himachal Pradesh  91. Kirankumar Vissa, Engineer and Social Activist, Hyderabad, Telangana  92. Latha, Activist, Wayanad, Kerala  

93. Mayank Shah, Researcher, Nainital, Uttarakhand 

94. M.M Chamoli, Garhwal, Committee member, CPI-ML (Lib) Rudraprayag (Uttrakhand) 95. MC SATI, Dhad, Srinagar Garhwal ,Uttarakhand  

96. Meera Rotti, Freelance translator, Community Activist of HSR layout Bangalore,  Bengaluru, Karnataka  

97. Navin Joshi, Journalist and Writer, Lucknow, U P  

98. Nekram Sharma, Farmer and Activist, Karsog, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh  99. Nidhi Agarwal, Facilitator & Educator, NEW DELHI  

100. Nuwayri, Trainer, New Delhi  

101. Puran Bartwal, Researcher, Dehradun, Uttarakhand  

102. Rajeev Khanna, Independent Journalist, Solan, Himachal Pradesh  103. Rajesh Ramakrishnan, Researcher, Chennai, Tamil Nadu  

104. Raju Sajwan, Independent Journalist, New Delhi  

105. Ramnarayan, Ecologist, Biodiversity, Natural History & Climate Change Educator,  Munsiari, Uttarakhand  

106. Ravi Joshi, Research scholar, Munsiari, Uttarakhand  

107. Rohit Prajapati, Environmentalist, Vadodara, Gujarat  

108. Romar Correa, Independent researcher, Mumbai, Maharashtra  

109. Shishir, Ecological Sciences Practitioner, Vadodara, Gujarat  

110. Shruti Jain, Journalist/Researcher, Haldwani, Uttarakhand  

111. Shubham Nautiyal Activist, Dehradun, Uttarakhand  

112. Siddharth Agarwal, Activist & Researcher, Kolkata, West Bengal  113. Sunder Negi, Farmer and Activist, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh 

114. Sudha N, Researcher & Activist, Bangalore, Karnataka 

115. Uma Mahajan, Writer, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh  

116. Upesh Negi, Farmer and Hortiuculturalist, District – Kinnaur (Himachal Pradesh)  117. U S Rawat, Geologist, Dehradun, Uttarakhand 

118. Sunita Lecturer, Jahalman Lahaul spiti  

119. Tamara Law Goswami, Environmentalist, Tezpur, Assam  

120. Tarini, Filmmaker, New Delhi  

121. Yash Marwah, Writer, Mumbai,Maharashtra  

122. Ajay B, Citizen, Mysore, Karnataka 

123. Abhishek Negi, Citizen, New Delhi  

124. Afreen, Citizen, Maharashtra  

125. Amar Singh, Citizen, Village and Post Keylong, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh  126. Amit Gahlawat, Citizen, Jhajjar (Haryana)  

127. Anshu Yadav, Student, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh  

128. Ashok Kumar, Citizen, Delhi  

129. Bidisha, Citizen, Guwahati Assam  

130. Colonel Yashpal Singh Negi (Veteran. ) Vill Birgana Uttrakhand  131. Donald Takhellambam, Citizen, Imphal, Manipur  

132. G Sai Bhargava reddy, Citizen, Hyderabad, Telangana  

134. Harendra kumar awasthi, Citizen, Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand  

135. Harsh Vardhan uniyal, Citizen, Haldwani Uttarakhand 

136. Jaideep Goswami, Agriculture & Hospitality, Tezpur, Assam  137. Kamal dwivedi, Student, Munsyari (Pithoragarh), Uttarakhand  138. Rajesh, Student, Bageshwar, Himachal Pradesh  139. Sanjay Dhyani, Citizen, Kiotdwar, Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand  140. Satbir Singh, Citizen, Greater Noida  

141. Saurav, Citizen, Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand  

142. Smruthi, Student, Bangalore, Karnataka  

143. Sudhanshu Bijalwan, IT Professional, Dehradun Uttarakhand  144. Sudhir Chella Rajan, Citizen, Durham, NC 

145. Surender Deol, Citizen, Tindi Lahaul Spiti Himachal Pradesh  146. Tara Murali, Citizen, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 

147. Tijesh, Citizen, Himachal Pradesh  

148. Urfi Prasad, Citizen, Hyderabad Telangana  

149. Uma Shankari, Farmer and Citizen, Hyderabad 150. Vishal Joshi, Student, Bageshwar, Uttarakhand

Read and download the full statement (Hindi and English) here. पूरा विवरण (हिंदी और अंग्रेजी) यहां पढ़ें और डाउनलोड करें।

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