A multi-disciplinary expert team will study the situation and give recommendations to undertake corrective measures in Uttarakhand’s Joshimath town, where many houses and roads have developed huge cracks, leading to concerns about their stability, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office said on Sunday.

The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by PK Mishra, the principal secretary to the prime minister. The cabinet secretary, other senior officials of the central government and members of the National Disaster Management Authority were also present at the meeting.

The expert team will consist of representatives from the National Disaster Management Authority, National Institute of Disaster Management, Geological Survey of India, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, National Institute of Hydrology and Central Building Research Institute, the prime minister’s office said in a press release.

Several localities in Joshimath have developed cracks due to land subsidence, or the sinking of the earth’s surface because of geologic or man-induced causes.

Located at a height of 6,000 feet in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, Joshimath falls in the high-risk seismic zone V. Cracks have been observed in 603 buildings in the town and 68 families have been relocated, according to the Chamoli Disaster Management Department.

“Officials have been asked to shift around 600 families living in endangered houses in Joshimath to safe locations,” Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said on Sunday. “We are also working on short and long-term plans to address the situation in Joshimath.”

Meanwhile, the prime minister’s office also said on Sunday that the Secretary of Border Management and members of the National Disaster Management Authority will visit Joshimath on Monday to assess the situation. One team of the National Disaster Response Force and four teams of the State Disaster Response Force have already been deployed in the town.

Plea in courts

A petition has also been filed in the Supreme Court seeking that the crisis in Joshimath be declared a national disaster, reported PTI. The petitioner, Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati, claims that the current situation is due to large-scale industrialisation of the town.

“No development is needed at the cost of human life and their ecosystem and if anything such is happening it is the duty of the state and Union government to stop the same immediately at war level,” the plea stated, according to PTI.

Meanwhile, another plea in the Delhi High Court has sought a direction to the Centre to constitute a committee headed by a retired judge to look into the crisis in the town.

The petitioner, Rohit Dandriyal, has claimed that construction done by the ministries of Road Transport and Highways and Power, New and Renewable Energy, in the town of Joshimath has “worked as a catalyst” behind the crisis

“The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways invested Rs 12,000 crore in the programme for connectivity improvement for Char-Dham [Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangothri] in Uttarakhand,” the plea said, according to PTI. “The Ministry of Power has also invested Rs 2976.5 crore through NTPC [National Thermal Power Corporation].”