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J&K on powder keg of high magnitude earthquakes, experts warn

Srinagar, Feb 10: As experts have been warning of major earthquakes of high magnitude in Jammu and Kashmir without any specific timeframe as it falls in high seismic zones, experts are worried over high tectonic activity coupled with soil erosion in quake vulnerable areas of J&K.

J&K falls under the high seismic Zones IV and V making it vulnerable to earthquakes. A powerful 7.6 magnitude earthquake rattled J&K on October 8, 2005, claiming 1350 lives and causing massive destruction to structures.

The vulnerability of J&K is in focus after a devastating earthquake of 7.8 magnitude rocked Turkey and Syria on February 6, leaving around 11,000 dead while hundreds of buildings collapsed.

A study by a prominent US-based seismologist Roger Bilham has warned that Kashmir valley is likely to be hit by an earthquake of largest ever magnitude 9, but did not specify any timeframe.

Experts, who have been monitoring the situation in J&K, are concerned over increasing tectonic activity in quake vulnerable areas like Pir Panjal and Zankar range of mountains.

“Tectonic activity besides frequent quakes coupled with soil erosion in quake prone areas in the Pir Panchal and Zanskar range of mountains are worrying indicators. Studies and indicators point towards the likelihood of a high magnitude quake in J&K, but we can’t say when,” noted Geoscientist Abdul Majid Butt told Greater Kashmir.

I have closely studied Geomorphology of these areas underground and on surface practically. The stability of the region geologically is very fragile. Need is consolidation than acts which cause soil erosion ultimately leading to instability. Plates have added up huge underground pressure which need vent to cause tremor,” he said.

Butt, a retired KAS officer, has worked in various projects in Doda, mining operations in connecting Banihal and Qazigund for mining of Gypsum at Assar and Baggar cement plants for over two decades.

He was general manager of world famous sapphire mines at earthquake prone Padder for over a decade.

Recently big cracks in several houses in the mountainous Nai Basti area of Thathri in Doda district of Jammu created panic among the residents. The situation was similar to Joshimath, a hilly town in north Indian state of Uttarakhand a few months ago where over 1000 houses cracked, crumbled, and caved in, rendering families homeless.

Doda has emerged as one of the most eco-fragile areas in J&K due to its unique geoclimatic conditions. It is prone to earthquakes and witnesses frequent low intensity quakes.

Elaborating, Butt said study of geological joints along Srinagar-Jammu National Highway calls for rockbolting and shortcreting so that percolating waters along fissures may not add up as accelerating agents in absence of drainage.

“It is ironic that registered qualified persons certified by Indian Bureau of Mines to monitor Environment Impact Assessment by an act of Parliament were never consulted by concerned agencies to safeguard road safety, shooting stones and landslides. These unscientific and haphazard projects disturbed these fragile mountains.

Seepage of rain water and haphazard construction of developmental projects has exacerbated the situation coupled with high tectonic activity,” he said. “Melting of glaciers has added up to the warmth in the region. Kashmir also witnessed Tsunami around 250 million years ago when most of its biotic life perished when Kashmir was a sea and still we survived.”

He said: “Situation as of today is much aggravating from the Mohimangat-Shopian axis across Pir Panjal and Sumcham Padder, Padam Zanskar besides the main axis of Doda-Kulgam periphery. Uri, Bijhoma and Aharbal are on earthquake fault lines.”

Butt recommended massive afforestation, stability measures besides update on Disaster management Techniques.

“People by and large have to be prepared for safety devices, first aid, not to construct structured buildings and instead use Retrofit measurable. Drill must be on both sides of Zanskar, Panjal range in vulnerable areas for ensuring personnel safety, safeguard of structures. Need to develop a strong response to combat the aftermath,” he said.

Chenab Valley housing huge dams on Chenab including Dul Hasti in Kishtwar, Baglihar in Ramban, is vulnerable to quakes.

The vulnerability of the geologically young unstable and fragile rocks in Doda have increased manifold due to various unscientific developmental activities.

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