With its epicenter in Tajikistan, an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale shook Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, the Delhi-NCR and Uttarakhand on February 12. Earthquakes are not new to this part of the globe. According to National Centre for Seismology (NCS), which maintains a nation-wide seismological network comprising of 115 seismic stations, during the last year (1st January 2020 to 31st December 2020), a total of 965 earthquakes with magnitude 3 and above have been reported.
India has been divided into four zones viz. zone V, IV, III and II according to the seismic zoning map of India prepared by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) based on historical seismicity and strong ground motions.
Out of these zones, Zone V exhibits the highest seismic risk and zone II has the least.
All districts of Kashmir valley and Doda district fall in Seismic Zone-V, and the rest of the districts fall in Seismic Zone-IV.
The time of occurrence of a big earthquake cannot be predicted accurately with existing technology even as government of India revealed in parliament on February 5 that it plans to strengthen the existing National Seismological Network with additional 35 field stations during 2021-22, thus making it to 150. This will help in the detection of smaller earthquakes in selected locations.
The earthquake of 6.3 is a major jolt and fortunately, there has been no loss of life even as some houses developed cracks. Nevertheless, it highlighted the need for preparedness on part of the government beforehand rather than managing its aftermath.
Giving the high vulnerability, there is no ordinary escape for the region from susceptibility to earthquakes. However, the foreknowledge of potential danger areas can help mitigate the impact of a disaster. Keeping in view the preparations of the J&K, any jolt leads to more panic.
In 2005 a big quake of 7.6 on the Richter scale led to the loss of around 80,000 lives with Pakistan Administered Kashmir being the worst affected. On this side of the J&K, the quake caused devastation along with the frontier villages particularly in Uri and those in the Kupwara district. If anything, the recent quakes should be a warning about a possible repetition of the natural disaster in the region.
There is a need to accept earthquakes as a reality and do everything to redefine development plans, especially in terms of building quake-resistant buildings. There ought to be a systematic resort to disaster drills to educate the public on what to do during an earthquake. Preparedness remains the key to such disasters.