At Uttarakhand’s “sinking town” of Joshimath, where more than 700 homes have developed cracks and residents are being moved to safety, banned drilling activity has resumed in the dead of night.
At 2 am early Wednesday, an NDTV team caught on camera stone-crushing and drilling in full swing in the mountains just outside Joshimath, near the highway that connects the area to the holy town of Badrinath.
Cranes were seen carrying stones from the spot after the crushers did their job. The noise from the drilling could be heard for over a kilometre but there was no one to stop the workers.
All construction work has been banned in and around Joshimath due to land subsidence, or the sinking of the surface, which has caused dangerous cracks in 721 houses in the town. Work on an all-weather road was also stopped.
Thousands of people are living in fear in the temple town that is known to be the gateway to Badrinath.
Massive cracks have appeared in buildings and roads because of years of unplanned infrastructure building, including hydropower projects. Many buildings are feared to be on the verge of collapse.
The demolition of the most damaged buildings, including two hotels and several houses, was blocked on Tuesday by angry residents and shop-owners who said they were not given any notice.
Besides hotels and business establishments, 678 homes are in danger, the Uttarakhand government has said.
Some 4,000 people have been moved to relief camps after a satellite survey.
Joshimath and its neighbouring areas have been sinking at the rate of 6.5 cm every year, satellite data reveals.
Many local residents blame the hydroelectricity project of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), alleging that the blasting of tunnels left the entire region unstable. The NTPC has denied the charge.