Joshimath and Beyond
Joshimath, a picturesque town nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, is facing a concerning issue–it is sinking under its own weight. The town's foundation is weak as it sits atop a glacial moraine, leaving it vulnerable to earthquakes. Moreover, the rapid increase in construction activities has made the situation worse, resulting in significant land deformation. Experts attribute this construction boom to the widening of the Char Dham Yatra road and National Highway 7, which are frequented by tourists and used to transport cargo to reach the holy shrine of Badrinath every year. Additionally, the Tapovan Vishnugad hydel project by NTPC Limited has also contributed to the situation.

The current crisis in Joshimath is a result of prioritising economics over a fragile ecology or the Himalayan ecosystem. The development model that has been followed for years has led to the open plundering of natural resources, ultimately leading to the present situation.

Atul Sati, the convenor-president of Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, is spearheading the movement against maldevelopment and advocating for proper rehabilitation of affected people and preservation of the ecology.

‘Moti Bagh’ is an award-winning film by Nirmal Chander that highlights the complex and multilayered overall crisis in Uttarakhand–fraught with thousands of 'ghost villages' caused by mass migration to cities, the struggle to save farming, the socio-economic rift with Nepali agricultural labourers, all amidst increasing incidents of forest fires and earthquakes in a very fragile Himalayan ecology.

For over five decades, 83- year- old Vidyadutt Sharma has nurtured Moti Bagh, his 5 acre farm in a small Himalayan village. Around him are 7000 ghost villages - a chilling testimony to large scale migration by locals in search of employment. Chronicling the changing landscape in verses of resistance, Vidyadutt Sharma and Ram Singh, his Nepali farmland, plough the fields and keep them alive, hoping to return Moti Bagh to its old glory.
A Reader, Uttarakhand

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Vol 55, No. 49, Jun 4 - 10, 2023