Several houses in Ramban district, which borders Doda, have also developed cracks
A lack of a drainage system is primarily responsible for the land subsidence that took place last week in the Nai Basti hamlet of Doda district, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, geologists said.
They urged the authorities to make detailed surveys in all the villages and hamlets of the area.
Ajaz Rasool, a Srinagar-based hydraulic engineer, told Down To Earth (DTE) that the incident in Nai Basti was due to the geological fault zone which has moved a bit, causing land sinking or subsidence.
“There have been a few incidents of low intensity earthquakes in Doda and the neighbouring Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, some months back. That could have caused the movement of the fault zone,” Rasool said.
He added that the constant water flow from residential and commercial establishments can also cause land subsidence. It should be augmented, he said.
GM Bhat, noted geologist in Jammu and Kashmir and former professor and head, department of geology, Jammu University, visited Nai Basti February 5.
He told press reporters that both land sliding and subsidence is occurring in the area. Before his team’s visit, the Geological Survey of India’s team had also visited the area and both the reports are awaited.
“There is continuous seepage of household water inside the land and this can be one of the main reasons for subsidence in Nai Basti, Doda. The cracks need to be filled up as rainwater can further enhance subsidence. My team has collected samples from the area and will come up with a final report soon,” Bhat told DTE.
The comments come even as several houses in Ramban district, which borders Doda, have also developed cracks. The Ramban district administration evacuated five families from the Basti village February 4, 2023 after their houses developed cracks.
People living in the districts of Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban are apprehensive after the incidences of subsidence in Nai Basti.
Shahdin Akhoon and his family. Photo: Mohammad Tayyab
Shahdin Akhoon, a 39-year-old labourer from Nai Basti hamlet of Thathri subdivision in Doda district or ground zero, is completely traumatised.
His small house, along with two dozen more, have been declared unsafe. This has forced him to take shelter in a nearby government school with his wife and three children. Around 10 houses have already developed severe cracks from February 1 onwards.
Shahdin apprehends that within a few days, his house will also collapse or develop cracks as land subsidence is taking place in the area.
“I work as a labourer and carry loads on my two mules around Thathri town and surrounding habitations. After many years of labour, I, along with my late father, had constructed a small house in Nai Basti around 20 years back. I don’t think I can live in my house,” Akhnoon told DTE.
He added that he had not gone to work for the last five days. “I want the government to come to our rescue and give us plots in some safe area so that we can construct new houses with financial assistance from the authorities,” Akhoon added.
Around 10 families, including Shahdin’s, were first moved to a makeshift hutment area of Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Corporation February 2, 2023.
But due to severe cold and non-availability of proper washrooms there, the local administration moved them to a local government school building in Thathri.
Athar Amin Zargar, sub divisional magistrate of Thathri, told DTE that land sinking had stopped from the evening of February 3, but added that it may continue. The administration has decided to put the affected families in safe locations, he added.
“Nai Basti has been declared as an unsafe area and 19 houses, including a mosque and madrassa (Islamic seminary) are impacted. The aggrieved include some government employees but there are many families who live below poverty line (BPL) and work as labourers and cobblers. Our prime work is to make sure their life is saved and the entire area sealed,” Zargar said.
He added that in the second phase, the authorities will ensure the rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected people, especially those who are economically very weak.
Shahdin told DTE that Nai Basti had witnessed land subsidence for the first time around three years ago, when a house belonging to local resident Mohammad Iqbal had been damaged:
We didn’t take that seriously and Iqbal, who is a government employee, constructed a new house. Then, a second incident of land subsidence took place last year in December wherein cracks developed in another house. The locals again didn’t take it seriously and finally the entire habitation has now been impacted.
He urged the government to undertake studies and surveys in all the villages and hamlets that are prone to landslides or land sinking.
Local residents of Thathri, including activists, have demanded that affected families be provided financial assistance under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY) so that they can construct new houses and land be allotted to them by the government.
“There are people who do odd jobs like carrying loads on mules and some work as sanitation workers or cobblers. The government must allocate plots to them and give financial assistance of Rs two lakh under PMAY. The forest department can provide them timber at subsidised rates for which there is already a provision under law. Till date, no formal announcement has been made in this regard,” Mohammad Tayyab, a local Right To Information activist from Thathri told DTE.
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