Low intensity tremors in Delhi precursor of major earthquake, experts warn

According to the National Centre for Seismology, from April 12 to May 29, ten low magnitude earthquakes measuring from 2.3 to 4.5 have been recorded in Delhi-NCR

A low-intensity earthquake struck several parts of Ganjam and Gajapati districts of Odisha on Saturday (August 8). Photo: PTI

With the national capital witnessing a mild earthquake of 4.1 magnitude on Friday (May 28) – the tenth one in the span of one and a half months, top geologists of India have warned a powerful earthquake may strike Delhi in the near future.

“We cannot predict time, place or exact scale, but do believe that there is a consistent seismic activity going around in the NCR region and can trigger in a major earthquake in Delhi,” said Dr. Kalachand Sain, Chief of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, a premier autonomous institute, run under Union Ministry of Science and Technology told IANS.

Adding that Delhi falls under high-risk seismic zones and the areas around it are witnessing a rapid growth of high rise private buildings, experts said that many of the buildings do not adhere to the mandatory Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) guidelines.

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Professor Chandon Ghose of IIT-Jammu, an expert on earthquake engineering while answering the question on what happens if an earthquake of magnitude 5.5 or 6.0 hits the NCR, said if high-intensity earthquakes hit the Delhi-NCR area the impact would be very serious.

“At Richter scale 6.0, the effect of the earthquake in Delhi would be devastating. Many buildings would be razed to dust,” he said.

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Calling out the nexus between the architects and builders who compromise the stringent earthquake (resistant) codes by BIS, Prof. said that despite knowing the Delhi-NCR falls under seismic zone-4, and it’s prone to tremors, people take such risks.

“Look at Japan, the entire country falls in seismic zone-5, but they religiously follow the construction codes. Their quality of construction can resist tremors measured at 7.5 or even 8.0 (at Richter scale),” he added.

According to the National Centre for Seismology, from April 12 to May 29, ten low magnitude earthquakes measuring from 2.3 to 4.5 have been recorded in Delhi-NCR. During this period, four tremors in Uttarakhand and six in Himachal Pradesh were also recorded.

“A series of such earthquakes ostensibly warn of a major earthquake to hit Delhi in the coming days. One of the reasons for increasing numbers of tremors hitting Delhi is that the local fault system here is quite active. Such fault systems around Delhi are capable of producing an earthquake of magnitude around 6 to 6.5,” said Dr. A.K. Shukla, former Head of Earthquake Risk Evaluation Centre, Indian Metrology Department (IMD).

The study reveals that since Delhi is closer to the Himalayas where several earthquakes of more than magnitude 8 have occurred, it increases the possibility of major tremors which can severely affect Delhi-NCR.

“Considering the local and Himalayan fault systems, we conducted a Seismic Hazard Microzonation Study of Delhi NCR, a few years ago,” said Shukla.

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The study also revealed that parts of South and Central Delhi are safer than areas that are located near the Yamuna riverbed.

Shukla recommended that urgent modification in existing building codes and effective implementation of BIS by the government should be done to secure people’s life and property in case a major earthquake hits the metro.

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