DURING the past week, J&K and Ladakh have witnessed earthquakes that have left people bewildered. The tremors have only been felt in specific areas. First it was a big tremor felt in Srinagar, then there was a quake in Gulmarg followed by one in Ladakh. The one in Srinagar left people shaken. The tremor was more like a bang that momentarily shook the houses. Many people have wondered if it was even the quake..Be that as it may, Srinagar quake was followed by two more localized tremors that only heightened the suspicions. But it is also true that the quakes have been authenticated by the international agencies.
This means J&K witnessed three successive quakes in a span of one week. And this should be a cause of deep concern for us. It is a well-known fact that J&K lies in seismic zone. In a written reply in 2017, the then Minister for Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction, Syed Basharat Ahmed Bukhari told the then J&K Assembly that almost all districts of Kashmir valley and erstwhile Doda district fall in Seismic Zone-V and the rest of the districts fall in Seismic Zone-IV. So, there is always an apprehension of threat to life and property.
In 2005 a big temblor that was 7.6 on Richter scale led to the loss of around 80,000 lives. Pakistan Administered Kashmir was worst affected with a predominant number of the people killed hailing from there. On this side of the state, the quake caused devastation along the villages bordering Line of Control, particularly Uri and parts of Kupwara district leaving around 1300 people dead. If anything, the recent quakes should warn us as to a possible repetition of this natural disaster in the region.
Already, a study by a prominent US seismologist Roger Bilham has warned that Kashmir Valley is likely to be hit by an earthquake of largest ever magnitude. But the study has not specified any particular time-frame. In what can be an apocalyptic scenario, Bilham said the quake could trigger landslides that would dam the river Jhelum, He also urged India and Pakistan to develop a cooperative plan to deal with the aftermath of a mega-quake in the union territory. But ever since the 2005 earthquake which initially alerted the government and the people to build stronger, reasonably quake resistant structures, the complacency seems to have again set in. The recent quakes have thus come as an important reminder to us to become more mindful of our vulnerability to the natural disasters – flood being the another – and take pro-active measures to lessen the damage should, God forbid, we experience another disaster. It is incumbent on the government not only to get its act together but also create a public awareness to help people to better prepare for a possible future calamity.
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