Kashmir Sits Uneasy On Fault Lines
8 October 2005
Srinagar: Kashmir is well known to be a high-risk area for earthquakes, and today's 7.6-magnitude temblor came after warnings that seismic activity there seemed to be on the rise.Seismologists have long considered the disputed Himalayan region to be a danger area like other parts of India such as Gujarat in the west, where more than 20,000 people lost their lives in 2001. Kashmir lies in the collision area of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates which formed the mighty Himalayas 50 million years ago, and are now responsible for yearly earth-quakes that often cause widespread devastation. Measuring the tremendous stresses below the surface, experts in recent years have noted an increase in seismic activity of the plates under Kashmir. Scientists have voiced fears major earthquakes could occur in Kashmir as well as the provinces of Uttarakhand and Nagaland, which also skirt the southern fringe of the Himalayas further to the east. Such research has led to calls for housing construction methods that have remained virtually unchanged for generations to be upgraded in the region. Indian Kashmir is a very poor province, thanks largely to a separatist insurgency that has raged since 1989 and has left some 44,000 people dead. Many buildings are four or five stories in height, constructed of soft clay. But due to the high volume of earthquakes over the centuries, the Kashmiri people have learned to live with them. While geographical statistics show that almost 54 per cent of India's land is vulnerable to earthquakes, Indian Kashmir lies closer to the fault line of the tectonic plates where the most severe quakes are to be expected. The region, along with other areas in the western and central Himalayas, falls into the most severe Zone V category of earthquake risk, one more than the notorious Kutch region of Gujarat province. More than 20,000 people were killed and towns and cities in Gujarat were damaged when an earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale slammed the State on Jan 26, 2001. Experts have warned that Kashmir and the surrounding area should expect aftershocks in the coming days.