Delhi-NCR might soon be hit by a major earthquake: Scientists

The region has witnessed 11 earthquakes in two months till June 3

india-gate-rajpath-arvind-jain [File] Delhi lies in ‘seismic zone IV’ or an area of high damage risk from earthquakes | Arvind Jain

With more than 11 tremors of medium magnitudes taking place in and around Delhi-NCR within two months until June 3, scientists have warned that the national capital might witness a massive earthquake imminent in the Himalayan foothills. The impact of such an earthquake might be "heavily damaging" for a densely populated city like Delhi. 

Scientists base their conclusions based on the fact that the region had remained seismically quiet for 600-700 years, creating an “enormous stacking up of seismic strain”, which could result in an earthquake of a magnitude of 8.5 or more at any time in the near future. 

According to C.P. Rajendran, a professor at the geodynamic unit of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bengaluru, the earthquake from the Central Himalayan foothills is expected anytime. "Studies suggest that this part of the Himalaya has not seen a major earthquake (greater than 8 magnitude) for hundreds of years unlike other parts of the Himalaya. The science tells us that the stresses due to the northward movement of the Indian plate piled up enormously there and it has to be released through a major earthquake or a series of earthquakes. We can only say it is imminent but cannot say when this is going to happen. Parts of Delhi, Haryana and the UP will be affected, other than parts of the central Himalaya (the Garhwal and Kumaon parts). It could happen anytime," Rajendran told HuffPost India in an interview. 

The faculty of IIT (ISM) Dhanbad’s departments of applied geophysics and seismology have also come to similar conclusions from their studies. “Recurrent tremors of small magnitudes indicate a bigger earthquake,” said P. K. Khan, professor at IIT Dhanbad's applied geophysics department. “The entire region experienced 64 tremors with magnitudes ranging between 4.0 and 4.9 and eight with magnitudes 5.0 and above over the last two years, which shows an increase in the accumulation of strain energy in the region, particularly near Delhi and Kangra,” The Times of India reported citing Khan. 

Rajendran further explained that Delhi lies in ‘seismic zone IV’ or an area of high damage risk from earthquakes. "Delhi will be heavily damaged. It is pointed out by architects that 95 per cent of the buildings in Delhi do not follow the safety code. Delhi’s population has also grown many times in the last 70 years. If a 1720-like earthquake recurs, the loss to life and property could be colossal in today’s Delhi. The destruction to property and lives would be colossal from a massive earthquake from the central Himalaya," he was quoted in the report. 

Studies warn that the areas around Yamuna River are more vulnerable because high soil thickness amplifies the seismic energy and generates more damage to buildings. For that matter, the entire alluvial plain along the Ganga river is highly vulnerable to a major earthquake from the Himalaya. 

The scientists have urged the Central and Delhi governments to take preventive measures and create awareness.

Social media was flooded with posts after a medium-intensity earthquake of magnitude 3.0 occurred near Noida in the national capital region (NCR) on Wednesday night. The epicentre of the quake was 19 km southeast of Noida in Gautam Budh Nagar district of western Uttar Pradesh adjoining Delhi, the National Center for Seismology said. The earthquake occurred at 10.42 pm at a depth of 4 km, it added.