THE moment magnitude (Mw) 5.9 earthquake occurred in the Tajikistan region, it ruptured a deeper portion of the lithosphere at 92km depth according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC). The earthquake was reported on 12th February at 17:01:35.2 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Although the quake had occurred more than 400 km north of the Kashmir basin, yet it managed to create panic in the valley, in Punjab and adjacent regions.
Geologically, it is not an unexpected earthquake and such quakes are a routine occurrence in the region and result from the ongoing tectonic collision between the lithospheric plates of India and Eurasia. Therefore, it is not true that the earthquake occurred in India, which was unfortunately reported by many media reports. This is what shows more problems than the earthquake itself.
The earthquake occurrences in the Himalayan region are very important aspects of the tectonics because these are an efficient mechanism to release years of stored strain within rocks. The strain in the Himalayan regions is a direct consequence of the northward push of India plate against Eurasia. Geologically, Tajikistan is one of the critical regions because it is where the tectonic transport on the active faults change, and it links the faults that run above Kashmir with those that are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Therefore, the Kashmir region is tectonically linked with the border regions on all sides, and an earthquake that will occur in those regions ought to shake Kashmir as well.
Earthquakes do not demarcate human borders but tectonic ones. The severe shaking reported in parts of Kashmir area could be because of the amplification of earthquake waves on entering the Quaternary sediments of the Kashmir basin. The earthquake-related shaking will amplify in regions that are filled with unconsolidated sediments, and therefore, the Kashmir and Peshawar basins reported severe shaking because of the above process.
The Tajikistan earthquake is yet another kind reminder that we must prepare the ground for a major earthquake, which could occur anytime in the future. The tectonic and earthquake history of the Kashmir region clearly suggests that a major earthquake is due, and if it occurs, it is going to be disastrous. I would say the devastation could be much worse than the 2005 Kashmir earthquake that resulted in the loss of more than 70 thousand people in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, and it also caused damage in the Kashmir basin as well.
The forecasting of a devastating earthquake in the Kashmir region is painful but true, and the unfortunate reality remains that we are yet to develop a robust mechanism to avert such estimates. The groundwork to deal with earthquake devastation has not even begun, and we are sitting on active faults that are ripe to slide and it is just a matter of time before unfortunate realities unfold in front of our eyes. No one would like to see such devastation in any part of the world, and Kashmir is not an exception. Therefore, I would kindly request administrative authorities to please make quick arrangements regarding earthquake hazards so that living with earthquake hazards in Kashmir becomes a reality. There is absolutely no way that we could predict the exact timing of a future earthquake, and the best remedy is to stay prepared with earthquake hazards.
- The author can be reached at [email protected]
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