Dehradun: The country’s longest cable car—Joshimath-Auli ropeway—situated in the picturesque Uttarakhand is battling for its existence amidst frequent incidents of landslides in its vicinity. Authorities maintaining the structure that offers a magnificent and majestic views of Himalaya said that they might have to shut it down forever, if landslides damaged the supporting iron towers.
Auli Ropeway is one of the major tourists’ attractions in Uttarakhand and is the second longest such structure in Asia. The Auli cable car, locally known as Gondola, covers a distance of 4.15 kms. It’s situated around 3,010 metre abolve the sea-level and passes through the snow-covered landscape during the winter. It is also the best skiing and paragliding destination in India receiving large number of tourists.
Officials of the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited (GMVNL), which maintains and manages the cable car operation, said that the frequent incidents of landslides in the region have accentuated their worries. “Landmass and rocks around the steel towers supporting the ropeway are getting dislocated due to recent earthquakes. Fortunately, none of the towers has been hit as yet, though residential buildings around it have suffered cracks and are being evacuated,” said a senior officer of the GMVNL.
As many as 36 families of Joshimath area have been shifted to safer places after their houses got badly damaged due to earthquakes and landslides in the last couple of years. Geological scientists have feared for any major disaster in Joshimath and Auli, if immediate steps are not taken to reduce the damages from the landslides.
The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had laid the foundation stone of the ropeway in 1982 to introduce the natural beauty of Uttarakhand’s Auli, which is considered a mini-Switzerland. The ropeway is in operation since 1994. The ropeway has been built on the jig-jack method. This ropeway passes through ten towers through the cedar forests, its eighth tower is a system of descending from the ropeway.
However, local citizen attribute the burgeoning threat to the picturesque landscape to reckless construction activities going on in the Himalayan region. Convener of Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti Atul Sati claimed that the incidents of landslides in the area had increased after the Central government carried on its its plan to build tunnel for Tapowan dam, overruling the threat perception stated by the government’s own committee.
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Ram Krishna, one of the Joshimath natives facing dislocation, claimed that they had to move out of their century old settlements as the government did little to save the locality from the man-made natural disaster. “Frequency of landslides has witnessed a sharp shoot after November this year,” said Krishna.