Joshimath: The trauma of living in India’s sinking Himalayan town

By Soutik Biswas and Raju Gusain

Early in the morning of 2 January, Prakash Bhotiyal woke up to a “loud sound” in his house in Joshimath, a small Himalayan mountain town in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.

The 52-year-old tailor switched on the lights and surveyed his newly-built, double-storey house to find gaping cracks in the brick walls in nine of the 11 rooms. The panicked 11-member extended family quickly moved to two rooms where the walls had developed only hairline cracks. They have been holed up there since then.

“We stay awake until late. A small sound creates panic. We go to bed ready to rush out in case there’s an emergency,” says Mr Bhotiyal.

But things aren’t that safe outside either. Officials say the land is slowly sinking in Joshimath, a town of 20,000 people ensconced on a hillside where two valleys meet at an altitude of 6,151ft (1,874m)….