Earthquake of intensity above 6 on the Richter Scale which shook J & K, Himachal and adjoining areas and wrecked havoc in POK recently in addition to earthquakes in Tibet since 2016 till date, recent earthquakes in middle of 2020 in Ladakh, Uttarkashi and Jammu region, besides Kinnaur in Himachal, are indicator of increasing sub-surface tectonic activity, movement of Eurasian Plates – a warning from geoscientists in India and in overseas countries on coming disaster , the threat of a major earthquake which is impending.
The 1905 holocaust which devastated Himachal, wiping out population to a great extent is a reminder of a horrendous recurrence as 115 years have passed and impending disaster, of a bigger magnitude, is overdue.
The worry increases when views of geoscientists don the print and electronic media projecting warnings by scientists of an impending high-magnitude earthquake in the Himalayas. These warnings cannot be ignored or sidelined as these are wake up calls for ‘powers that be’ in the concerned region – the Himalayan states of Himachal, Uttarakhand and J & K, besides neighboring region of Punjab , Haryana and Delhi, for acting before it is too late.
Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Geological Survey of India, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bengaluru, several other similar organization in India and in the world have expressed concern that “enormous stacking up of strain in the region portends at least one earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or more in one of the overlapping segments of Himalayas anytime in the future”. In addition to these studies published in various geological journals, and taking into consideration recent earthquakes in Himalayan region and regions touching it, speculate threat of a major earthquake of intensity 8 plus on the Richter Scale in Himalayas.
The belt from Jogindernagar to Palampur-Kangra upto Chamba is highly vulnerable being in zone five where Wadia Institute has set up several observatories for feedback on sub-surface movements. Worry of Himachal government should be more as the common saying is – it is not the earthquake that kills but the type of constructions, which does. The haphazard construction picture in the state, specifically in the tourist towns of Shimla, Manali, Dharamsala, McLeodganj and Dalhousie sends shivers down our spine as causalities, in the eventuality of a major earthquake will be large – maybe in lakhs if loss of over 20,000 lives in 1905 is kept in mind when constructions were not even 10 percent compared to today. Population at that time was very thin at that time and houses were largely wooden in structures.
A great earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or more that occurred between 1315 and 1440 in addition to Kangra earthquake of 1905, had unzipped a stretch of about 600 km and the frontal thrust in the central Himalayas (covering parts of India and eastern Nepal) has remained seismically quiet for 600 to 700 years, implying enormous build-up of strain in the region.
In this backdrop, considering this potentially high seismic risk, it will be particularly catastrophic for a region marked by an ever-growing population and unhindered expansion of the built-up environment, to be contrasted with poor preparedness to meet this contingency.
Many geological reports pointing towards possibility of a large earthquake bear credence and authority backed by data from government agencies in India and in neighboring countries and also from advanced super power America.
This possibility should not be ignored and necessary safeguards should be taken to minimize the loss of human lives. Retrofitting of highly populous buildings and old structures including hospital and school buildings has to be done on war footing in Himachal else posterity will not forgive the political regimes which fails to heed the timely warnings.
No new building should be passed without earthquake resilient structure norms and corrective measures should be taken for all buildings completed without safety norms. The wake-up call, from Himachal Tribune, howsoever small the newspaper it may be, should be taken seriously in letter and spirit in larger interest of the people in Himachal and adjoining Himalayan states.