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Land Sinking

April 30, 2024
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Land sinking, or land subsidence, has emerged as another environmental challenge in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The recent incident in the Ramban district, where over 58 houses were completely damaged due to land sinking in Pernote village, highlights the urgent need to address this issue. Land sinking in J&K can be attributed to various natural and human-induced factors. The region’s complex geological makeup, characterized by tectonic activity and unstable soil composition, contributes to land sinking incidents. Movements along fault lines and underground shifts in rock formations can weaken the stability of the land surface, leading to subsidence. Excessive extraction of groundwater for agricultural, industrial and domestic purposes lowers the water table, causing the soil to compact and settle. This subsidence due to groundwater depletion is a common phenomenon observed in many parts of the world, including J&K. Erosion, sedimentation, and weathering processes, exacerbated by factors such as deforestation and improper land use practices, can accelerate land sinking. Inadequate watershed management and soil erosion control measures further exacerbate the problem. Anthropogenic factors such as urbanization, improper land reclamation, and construction on unstable ground can exacerbate land sinking. Unplanned development, including the construction of roads, buildings, and infrastructure, alters the natural drainage patterns and disrupts the equilibrium of the land, leading to subsidence. The consequences of land sinking are far-reaching and can have devastating effects on communities and the environment. Land sinking poses a significant risk to infrastructure, including residential buildings, roads, and utilities. The collapse of structures and the loss of livelihoods due to property damage can have severe socio-economic implications for affected communities. Land sinking alters natural ecosystems, affecting vegetation, wildlife habitats, and water bodies. Increased erosion and sedimentation further degrade soil fertility and water quality, exacerbating environmental degradation. Land sinking events often necessitate the evacuation and relocation of affected populations to safer areas, leading to displacement and loss of homes and livelihoods. Vulnerable communities, particularly those living in low-lying areas and informal settlements, are disproportionately affected. Addressing land sinking in J&K requires a multi-faceted approach involving various stakeholders and measures. Conducting detailed geological surveys and assessments to identify areas prone to land sinking and understand underlying causes is essential for effective prevention and mitigation efforts. Enforcing land use regulations and zoning ordinances to prevent construction in high-risk areas prone to land sinking is crucial. Incorporating geotechnical considerations into urban planning and infrastructure development can minimize vulnerability to subsidence. Implementing watershed management strategies, including soil conservation, afforestation, and erosion control measures, can help mitigate erosion and sedimentation, reducing the risk of land sinking. Engaging local communities in awareness-raising and capacity-building initiatives on land sinking hazards and preventive measures is vital. Encouraging community participation in disaster preparedness, early warning systems, and emergency response planning can enhance resilience to land sinking events. Enacting and enforcing legislation and policies to regulate land use, groundwater extraction, and development activities in vulnerable areas can help mitigate the impacts of land sinking in Jammu and Kashmir.

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