As much as 59% of India’s land area faces medium to high risk of earthquakes, the National Disaster Management Authority said on Wednesday. The central body attributed the increased risk to the widespread unscientific constructions that include multi-storied apartments, large factories, malls, supermarkets, and warehouses as well as other brick-and-mortar buildings.
The data was revealed hours after an earthquake, measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, rocked several parts of North India and the subcontinent late on Tuesday night. The epicentre was in Afghanistan and the affected countries included Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, China, and Kyrgyzstan
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Over the past 15 years, the country has experienced 10 major earthquakes that claimed more than 20,000 lives. As per the current seismic zoning map of the country, 59% of India’s land area is under moderate to severe seismic hazard alert, said NDMA.
This means India is prone to aftershocks of intensity VII on the Medvedev–Sponheuer–Karnik (MSK) scale and above. The MSK scale measures the intensity of an earthquake at a particular location, based on the damage it causes to structures and the effects it has on people and the environment.
The scale ranges from I to XII, with each level corresponding to a particular level of intensity. At the lower end of the scale, level I corresponds to an earthquake that is barely perceptible, while at the higher end, level XII corresponds to an earthquake that causes complete destruction.
Unlike the Richter scale, which measures the magnitude of an earthquake based on the energy it releases, the MSK scale takes into account the actual effects of an earthquake on people and structures. This makes it a more accurate measure of the true impact of an earthquake.
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The NDMA said that the entire Himalayan region is known to be prone to large earthquakes of magnitude 8 on the Richter scale. In a relatively short span of 50 years, there have been four such large earthquakes — Shillong (magnitude 8.7) in 1897, Kangra (magnitude 8.0) in 1905, Bihar-Nepal (magnitude 8.3) in 1934, and Assam-Tibet (magnitude 8.6) in 1950. Scientific publications have warned about the possibility of a large powerful earthquake (magnitude 8) in the Himalayan region again very soon.
Scientists say that the increase in the earthquake risk is due to a rapid increase in development activities, such as urbanization. The increased use of high-technology equipment and tools in manufacturing and service industries has also contributed to the risk. As a result, the loss of human life is no longer the only consequence of earthquakes. Severe economic damage that devastates the local or national economy following an earthquake can have long-term adverse impact on the country as a whole. If an earthquake affects a metropolis like Delhi or Mumbai, the impact will be much bigger.