After the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria in which more than 9000 people have been killed, a study reveals that such seismic activity can rattle Kashmir too, a region that falls under Seismic Zone 5.
In 2007, geophysical research conducted by the University of Kashmir (KU) in collaboration with the University of Colorado in Boulder, US, warned that a possible magnitude 9.0 earthquake could potentially hit the Kashmir valley.
As per the study, there is a chance that an earthquake at the Richter scale of above 8.5 magnitudes could hit the Kashmir valley.
One of the researchers at the department of Earth Science at the university and senior seismologist, Dr Bikram Singh Bali told The Kashmir Walla that after the 2005 earthquake, which had an epicenter in Muzaffarabad, their team in a tie-up with the University of Colorado, led by Professor Roger Bilham in 2007, did extensive field research for five years and find a terrible seismic activity at the Zanskar range up to the Richter scale of 9.0.
The study conducted by these experts further stated that a major quake is likely to trigger landslides that would damage the Jhelum river, which flows from the Kashmir Valley into Pakistan.
They have also mentioned in their study that the last “great earthquake” occurred in the Kashmir gap in 1555 and a recent one: 7.6 on the Richter scale rocked this gap in 2005 killing around 100,000 people.
Even though the study didn’t predict the timing of the earthquake, it stated that given the building codes and population in the region, it could lead to a death toll of 3,00,000 people.
“Even the buildings in New Delhi will clatter to the ground by the impact of the magnitude of that earthquake,” the study found.
Kashmir — located in a seismic Zone V, or a very high-risk zone — continues to struggle with frequent quakes. In 2020-21, the Valley has faced nearly 100 tremors; some had epicenters near Srinagar, as per the data from the National Center for Seismology.
Shakil Romshoo, vice-chancellor at the Islamic University of Science and Technology, termed the Turkey disaster as a wake-up call to address the vulnerability to earthquakes in the Indian Himalaya.
“Thousands have died and hundreds of buildings have flattened after two devastating earthquakes of 7.8 and 7.6 magnitude struck Turkey and Syria within 12 hours,” Romahoo said. He wrote in a tweet: “It is a wakeup call to remind us about our vulnerability to earthquakes in the Indian Himalaya.”
The Himalayan zone is divided into three seismic gaps – Kashmir, Central, and Assam.
“Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand fall under the Kashmir gap that falls in the highest risk zone,” the study read.
The historical seismicity of the Kashmir valley and the adjoining region indicates about fourteen damaging earthquakes have occurred since the year 1123. At the same time, the majority of Srinagar’s buildings are not earthquake-resistant, and the city’s preparedness for earthquakes is extremely poor, according to the District Disaster Management (DDM) Plan 2020 Srinagar.
The plan also warned: “The people, the houses, the public buildings, and entire property in the district is at risk and a large earthquake can cause extensive damage to life and property.”
In 2021, in an interview with The Kashmir Walla, Imtiyaz Ahmed Parvez, Senior Principal Scientist at the Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research, who has been working in Kashmir Himalayas, said that the infrastructure, particularly the houses, is poorly constructed in Kashmir and lacks “earthquake-resistant engineering”.
“Earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do. The regulation of building construction is a must and existing houses must go for retrofitting,” Parvez had said.