'People sitting on time bomb, govt in deep slumber'
An earthquake of the magnitude of 8.5 or more is likely to rock the Himalayan region including Jammu and Kashmir, a group of scientist said at recently held “International Workshop on Climate Change and Extreme Events in Himalayan Region. ”
The workshop was hosted by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi on April 18-20, and was aimed at understanding the effects of climate change, melting of glaciers increased the frequency of extreme events, atmospheric pollution, pollution due to crop residue burning in the Himalayan region and applications of remote sensing.
According to them, India has not learnt from past mistakes and is far from being prepared for such an eventuality with no strategy to minimise loss of life and property.
Commenting on this finding, senior seismologist and Reader at the Department of Earth Science, Kashmir University, Bikram Singh Bali said that Jammu and Kashmir falls under seismic zone five, the highest quake-prone area but the government seems to be little prepared to face this natural calamity in future.“We have already done this research which was published in the American journal in 2013."
Bali said, after the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, they had done a study with the top seismologists of the world. "We found, the stress builds up in Kashmir will lead to an earthquake of 8 to 9 magnitude."
He said the the government does not seem concerned about it leaving the lives of people at risk.
As per the official figures from the Meteorological Department, 137 earthquakes have hit the region since 2009.
A number of earthquakes have occurred in Jammu and Kashmir over the years including high magnitude 2005 Uri and 2013 earthquake in Kishtwar in which a large number of people were killed.
However, the majority of the office and school buildings didn’t resist the earthquake resulting in massive damage to the property and loss of human lives.
According to the preliminary assessments made by the teams of National Disaster Management Authority at least 90-per cent concrete structures including schools and government buildings and residential houses suffered damages and were vulnerable to earthquakes.
“The main epicentre of the 2005 earthquake was between the Muzaffarabad and Balakote. But all the stress was expected to transfer to the Pir Panjal range. So, in 2007 and 2008, we created a network of GPS system and installed the stations in Uri, Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Aroo Pahalgam. But we found the negligible stress around 2.5 to3 ml,” Bali said.
He said that he along with other top international seismologists found the 14 ml of stress build up in Uri, Keran, Ganderbal, Sonamarg, Naranag and Zanskar side in Leh.
" After monitoring the situation of the state from 2009 to 2013, people are sitting on a time bomb. The life of people in the state is cheap as nobody is bothering, “he said.
The seismologist said that earthquake-prone countries like Japan have disaster resistant buildings, proper equipment, alerts and other facilities.
He said the the state has other priorities and the government seems to be hardly bothered. "In fact, Himachal Pradesh, which came into existence much later as a state is well equipped to tackle the earthquake and other disasters. They are following the guild lines as well. "
He said that there are no earthquake resistant buildings in Kashmir. No regulations or guidelines are followed while erecting new constructions. “This is the right time for the government to take concrete measures to avoid heavy losses in an earthquake.”
“Our school and hospital buildings are not resistant to earthquake. If any calamity hits valley people in these building will have fewer chances to survive,” Bali said.
Despite high risk, the state has failed to put in place a strong policy to tackle natural disasters across Jammu and Kashmir. The absence of disaster risk mapping portrays a dismal picture of the disaster preparedness and the weak government apparatus.