Mysterious Land Subsidence: Panel Investigates Sinking Houses in Srinagar

Srinagar additional DC said families living in these houses have either shifted to some other places or are putting up with neighbours after the houses developed cracks

At least six houses in Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir have developed cracks, with some structures like pillars tilting precariously, prompting the residents to move to a safer location and the administration to set up an expert committee to look into land subsidence in the area, officials said.

The six houses in Khwajapura Surteng, in old city’s Rainawari area, began developing cracks on the walls and floors on June 17, with some structures also tilting, after some portions of the land began to sink last week, the officials added.

Srinagar additional deputy commissioner Syed Ahmad Kataria said: “Some eight families living in these houses have either shifted to some other places or are putting up with neighbours after the houses developed cracks. A committee of experts and administration officials have also been formed to examine the cause of the land sinking.”

He added: “The committee comprises experts from University (of Kashmir) and National Institute of Technology, Srinagar, besides those from geology and mining, roads and buildings and the district administration.”

The committee will visit the site on Wednesday morning to probe and draft a report on the matter, Kataria said.

Local residents said the cracks began developing last week and have widened since then. “We had informed the revenue department, following which the Patwari arrived and asked us to vacate the houses. However, the administration did not arrange any accommodation for us,” one of the affected residents said, seeking anonymity.

Another resident, who also did not wish to be identified, also sought government assistance. “Most of the families here live from hand to mouth. We need the government to tell us what we should do and where we should go,” the resident said.

A research paper on ‘mining induced subsidence’ in 2021 by a group led by Bikram Singh Bali, from the department of Earth Sciences at the University of Kashmir, said Surteng has a history of land subsidence. It said that the surface change phenomenon was restricted to a small area, which had a history of “extensive underground mining related to pottery industry” for decades. “Major sub-surface observations made were underground cavities, room and pillar mining structures and voids. In addition to the sub-surface structures caused by the mining in the historical past, the surface deformations were observed in the form of cracks developed in the construction,” the paper abstract said.

In April, a major land sinking episode at Parnote village in Jammu’s Ramban region led to the destruction of at least 58 houses, affecting more than 500 people.

Last year in January, large scale subsidence threatened the lives of the people in Joshimath town in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, after cracks and fissures appeared on several buildings, leading state officials to vacate areas and carry out inspections to determine the extent and cause of the incident.

A study conducted by a group of scientific and technical institutions on land subsidence in the Himalayan town attributed the crisis to Joshimath’s location on a slope over morainic deposits or loose sediments, population pressure, construction of multi-storey buildings and the absence of a system for proper disposal of water coming from the upper reaches.

On November 30 last year, the Union government approved a ₹1,658.17 crore recovery and reconstruction plan for Joshimath to be implemented in three years.

 

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