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SOURCE: BLOOMBERG

India¬†has relocated some troops from areas surrounding the sinking Himalayan town of Joshimath that’s near the Line of Actual Control or LAC with China, Army Chief Manoj Pande said. Gen. Pande didn’t give details on how many soldiers would be moved away for safety but said over 20 military installations around Joshimath in Uttarakhand have sustained “medium to minor damage.”

“We remain prepared to relocate more units if required, but our operational preparedness remains intact,” Gen. Pande said in an annual address of the state of the army’s operations. “There has been no impact to our readiness.”

The gateway town for mountain expeditions and pilgrimage sites like Badrinath has seen rapid infrastructure growth plus massive tourist footfalls. This has, in turn, damaged its ecosystem and triggered frequent landslides and flash floods.

The area is a also a key garrison center to defend a large portion of the 3,488-kilometer (2,170-mile) border with China known as the Line of Actual Control. India has over 20,000 troops and military hardware including artillery and missile systems located in the area.

The Supreme Court is set to hear a plea from a local religious leader on Jan 16 after cracks began to appear in more than 600 buildings in the tiny town. The petition seeks to halt construction of a hydroelectric project that it says is causing the sinking. The crisis has reignited a decades-old development versus environment debate in the region.

While relief and rescue operations for affected families are underway, the lawsuit in the top court has sought legal intervention in halting work on a tunnel being built by state-run NTPC Ltd. for its nearby hydroelectric power project until it’s examined and approved by a panel of geologists, hydrologists and engineers.