Discuss about the vulnerability of India to earthquake related hazards. Give examples including the salient features of major disasters caused by earthquakes in different parts of India during the last three decades. UPSC 2021, 10 Marks

Q8. भूकम्प संबंधित संकटों के लिए भारत की भेद्यता की विवेचना कीजिए । पिछले तीन दशकों में, भारत के विभिन्न भागों में भूकम्प द्वारा उत्पन्न बड़ी आपदाओं के उदाहरण प्रमुख विशेषताओं के साथ दीजिए । (150 शब्दों में उत्तर दीजिए)
Q8. Discuss about the vulnerability of India to earthquake related hazards. Give examples including the salient features of major disasters caused by earthquakes in different parts of India during the last three decades.(Answer in 150 words) 10

Earthquakes are the most unpredictable and highly destructive of all the natural disasters. Earthquakes of tectonic origin have proved to be the most devastating and their area of influence is also quite large which results from a series of earth movements brought about by a sudden release of energy during the tectonic activities in the earth’s crust.

Causes of earthquake in India

 Indian plate is moving at a speed of one centimetre per year towards the north and northeastern direction and this movement of plates is being constantly obstructed by the Eurasian plate from the north. As a result of this, both the plates are said to be locked with each other resulting in accumulation of energy at different points of time. Excessive accumulation of energy results in building up of stress, which ultimately leads to the breaking up of the lock and the sudden release of energy causes earthquakes along the Himalayan arch. 

Vulnerable zones:

  • The most vulnerable union territories/states include Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and the Darjeeling subdivision of West Bengal, and all the seven states of the northeast. 
  • The central-western parts of India, particularly Gujarat (in 1819, 1956 and 2001) and Maharashtra (in 1967 and 1993) have also experienced some severe earthquakes. Some earth scientists have come up with a theory of emergence of a fault line and energy build-up along the fault line represented by the river Bhima (Krishna) near Latur and Osmanabad (Maharashtra) and the possible breaking down of the Indian plate . 
  •  According to National Geophysical Laboratory, Geological Survey of India, Department of Meteorology, Government of India, along with National Institute of Disaster Management, divided India into the following five earthquake zones:
  1. Very high damage risk zone
  2. High damage risk zone
  3. Moderate damage risk zone
  4.  Low damage risk zone 
  5. Very low damage risk zone.

 Out of these, the first two zones had experienced some of the most devastating earthquakes in India. 

  1. Very High Damage Risk Zone: North-east states, areas to the north of Darbhanga and Araria along the Indo-Nepal border in Bihar, Uttarakhand, Western Himachal Pradesh (around Dharamshala) and Kashmir Valley in the Himalayan region and the Kuchchh (Gujarat). 
  2. High Damage Risk Zone: the remaining parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Northern parts of Punjab, Eastern parts of Haryana, Delhi, Western Uttar Pradesh, and Northern Bihar .
  3. Remaining parts of the country fall under moderate to very Low Damage Risk Zone. Most of the areas that can be considered safe are from the stable landmass covered under the Deccan plateau. 

Major disasters caused by earthquakes in different parts of India during the last three decades

The earthquake is often associated with fear and horror due to the scale, magnitude and suddenness at which it spreads disasters on the surface of the earth without discrimination. It becomes a calamity when it strikes the areas of high density of population. It not only damages and destroys the settlements, infrastructure, transport and communication network, industries and other developmental activities but also robs the population of their material and socio-cultural gains that they have preserved over generations. It renders them homeless, which puts an extra-pressure and stress, particularly on the weak economy of the developing countries. 

Gujarat earthquakes 2001

An earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale hit Gujarat in 2001 killed more than 13,000 people lost their lives in the first 82 seconds itself.

The tsunami of 2004

On December 26, 2004, one of the world’s deadliest tsunamis killed over 2,30,000 people in 14 different countries, mostly in Indonesia. It originated in the Indian Ocean and wreaked havoc on multiple countries including India. Minutes after the earthquake, the waves hit Andaman and Nicobar islands. In mainland India, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh were worst affected and the death toll in India itself crossed 18,000.

Landslides: Many landslides occurred in the hilly regions of Northeast India due to earthquakes.

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