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India’s Earthquake Preparedness

  • 13 Feb 2023
  • 5 min read

For Prelims: Turkey Syria Earthquake, Richter Scale, Himalayan Plate, Tectonic Plates.

For Mains: Causes of Earthquake, Earthquakes In/Around India, Steps for Earthquake Preparedness in India.

Why in News?

A severe earthquake followed by an almost equal magnitude aftershock hit southeastern Turkey and Syria on February 6, 2023, causing widespread destruction and loss of life.

  • The Turkey-Syria earthquake should motivate a review of India’s earthquake preparedness, as poor enforcement of zoning and construction rules is prevalent in the country.

What Makes India Susceptible to Earthquakes?

  • About:
    • India’s terrain is prone to great earthquakes, particularly in the Himalayan plate boundary, which has the potential for large quakes (magnitude 7 and above).
    • In India, earthquakes are primarily caused by the collision of the Indian Plate with the Eurasian Plate.
      • This collision has resulted in the formation of the Himalayas, as well as frequent earthquakes in the region.
  • Seismic Zones:

  • Susceptibility of Major Earthquakes:
    • Scientists are aware of identifiable seismic gaps along the Himalayan axis where the historical release of geological tension doesn’t fully account for the strain that has built up.
      • For instance, the Central Himalaya has been historically deficient in earthquakes compared to other areas. So, it’s one region that can reasonably be expected to generate a large earthquake in the future.

Note: Seismic Gap is the part of an active fault that has experienced little or no seismic activity for a long period, indicating the buildup of stresses that are useful in predicting earthquakes.

  • Earthquakes In/Around India:
    • India has experienced several significant earthquakes over the years, here are some examples:
      • Nepal Earthquake 2015: On April 25, 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal. The earthquake also had a significant impact in northern India.
      • Imphal Earthquake 2016: On January 4, 2016, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, causing widespread damage.
      • Uttarakhand Earthquake 2017: On February 6, 2017, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.

What Steps can be Taken for Earthquake Preparedness in India?

  • Building Codes and Standards: India has established building codes and standards for earthquake-resistant construction.
    • It is important to strictly enforce these codes and standards to ensure that new buildings are built to withstand earthquakes. This will also require regular inspections and enforcement of existing building codes.
  • Retrofitting and Reinforcement: Older buildings may not meet current earthquake-resistant standards, and many of them can be retrofitted or reinforced to improve their seismic performance.
  • Emergency Response Planning: Planning for emergency response is critical for minimising the impact of earthquakes. This includes developing evacuation plans, establishing emergency shelters, and training personnel on how to respond to earthquakes.
  • Research and Monitoring: Investing in research and monitoring can help improve our understanding of earthquakes and their causes, and can also help to develop better methods for predicting and mitigating their impact.
  • Land-Use Planning: It is important to consider the potential impacts of earthquakes when planning and developing land-use policies. This includes limiting development in areas that are prone to earthquakes and ensuring that new development is designed and constructed in a way that minimises the risk of damage.

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Q. The frequency of earthquakes appears to have increased in the Indian subcontinent. However, India’s preparedness for mitigating their impact has significant gaps. Discuss various aspects. (2015)

Q. Discuss about the vulnerability of India to earthquake related hazards. Give examples including the salient features of major disasters caused by earthquakes in different parts of India during the last three decades. (2021)

Source: TH

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