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A Mountain Crumbles

Purnima S. Tripathi
Frontline, Volume 20 – Issue 22, October 25 – November, 07, 2003

Uttarkashi is in the grip of fear as the Varunavat mountain on the edge of the town has cracked up and may collapse on it any time.

The Varunavat mountain rising on the edge of Uttarkashi town. Huge cracks on its side have set off several landslides.
THE ancient religious centre of Uttarkashi in the hills of Uttaranchal faces a crisis of existence. The Varunavat Parvat (mountain) on the edge of the town began cracking up on September 24 and now threatens to bury the town. Three huge cracks, running from the top to the foothills, and many smaller cracks have caused massive landslides, displacing over 15 per cent of the population and burying under debris over 90 per cent of prime commercial area. The Rishikesh-Gangotri highway running via Uttarkashi has been destroyed.

Even more disconcerting is the fact that experts are clueless how to tackle the situation, which could turn catastrophic once it starts raining. There is a huge mass of debris deposited on the mountain slopes, caught between uprooted trees, which will be washed down, swamping the town. The administration continues to be in the dark about the potential danger, and people continue to live under a shroud of dust kicked up by the cracking mountain and the nagging fear that the mountain may crumble on them any day. [more]