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Himalayas' non-uniformity may result in significantly large earthquakes

Scientists have found that the Himalayas are not uniform and assume different physical and mechanical properties in different directions—a property present in crystals called anisotropy. (HT) (Hindustan Times)Premium
Scientists have found that the Himalayas are not uniform and assume different physical and mechanical properties in different directions—a property present in crystals called anisotropy. (HT) (Hindustan Times)

  • The Himalayan region has been repeatedly hit by earthquakes, as witnessed in the area covering Garhwal and Himachal Pradesh, that has been hit by four destructive 'moderate to great' earthquakes since the beginning of the 20th century

NEW DELHI: In what may result in ‘significantly large earthquake events’ in the Himalayas, Indian scientists have found that the mountain range is not uniform, according to the ministry of science and technology.

This assumes significance given that the region has been repeatedly hit by earthquakes, as witnessed in the area covering Garhwal and Himachal Pradesh, that has been hit by four destructive 'moderate to great' earthquakes since the beginning of the 20th century. These are the Kangra earthquake of 1905, the Kinnaur earthquake of 1975, the Uttarkashi earthquake of 1991, and the Chamoli earthquake of 1999.

“Scientists have found that the Himalayas are not uniform and assume different physical and mechanical properties in different directions—a property present in crystals called anisotropy which could result in significantly large earthquake events in the Himalayas," the ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Recently an earthquake of magnitude 5.4 on the Richter scale occurred near the Sikkim-Nepal border, wherein tremors were felt in north Bengal, Assam, and Bihar.

This also comes against the backdrop of India being one of the most vulnerable country for extreme weather events, ranking 20 on the Climate Risk Index (CRI). Also, the country witnessed a human tragedy in February when several people lost their lives after a glacier burst near Raini village above Rishiganga river in Uttarakhand.

“The joint study using seismic waves from 167 earthquakes recorded by 20 broadband seismic stations deployed in the Western Himalaya suggested that the major contribution of the anisotropy is mainly because the strain induced by the Indo-Eurasia collision (going on since 50 million years) and deformation due to the collision is found to be larger in the crust than in the upper mantle," the statement said.

“These seismic activities manifest large-scale subsurface deformation and weak zones, underlining the need for deeper insights into the ongoing deformation beneath these tectonically unstable zones," the statement added.

India also plans to conduct airborne radar surveys to estimate the thickness of Himalayan glaciers, with a pilot study to be conducted in Lahaul-Spiti basin of Himachal Pradesh. Once the pilot project is done, similar studies will be conducted in Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra sub-basins.

The development assumes significance given the importance of glaciers in India’s river systems and the 500 million lives they sustain downstream in the Indo-Gangetic plains. They are also important from the energy security standpoint and have a strategic imperative.

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