1,456 earthquakes shook Punjab, nearby areas in 1,720 yrs: IIT Ropar study

The researchers sourced and compiled the data from archived records of United States Geological Survey, International Seismology Centre, and the Indian Meteorological Department.

A comprehensive analysis conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Ropar reveals that approximately 1,456 seismic events, each registering a magnitude of 4 or higher on the Richter Scale, occurred over the span of 1,720 years, from the year 300 to 2020, in the vicinity of Punjab. This data, compiled as part of the research on characterizing Sutlej river sand in relation to the seismicity of the region, sheds light on the geological dynamics in the area.

The research paper titled ‘Resonant column and cyclic torsion shear tests on Sutlej river sand subjected to seismicity of Himalayan and Shivalik hill ranges: A case study,’ authored by PhD scholar Sakshi Rohilla and Dr. Resmi Sebastian, Assistant Professor in the Civil Engineering Department at IIT Ropar, was published in the esteemed journal Soil Dynamics and Earthquake Engineering in March 2023.

The study underscores that within the total recorded seismic events, five major earthquakes occurred within a span of 200 years from 1905 to 2015 in the seismically active zone of the Indian Himalayan region. These include the 7.8 magnitude Kangra earthquake in 1905, the 6.8 magnitude Uttarakashi earthquake in 1991 resulting in 768 casualties, the 6.8 magnitude Chamoli earthquake in 1999 claiming 103 lives, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake of 7.6 magnitude causing 8,600 fatalities, and the Nepal earthquake of 7.8 magnitude in 2015 which resulted in 8,964 casualties.

The data utilized in the research was meticulously sourced and compiled from archived records of reputable institutions such as the United States Geological Survey, International Seismology Centre, and the Indian Meteorological Department.

In Punjab, the Shivalik range, covering an expanse of 5,470 square kilometers, including regions such as Chandigarh, Pathankot, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr, Ropar, and Mohali, is classified as part of the high-risk seismic zone-IV.

The research paper additionally emphasizes, “Tectonics of the study area plays a critical role in defining the seismic activity and determined that the region is susceptible to strong earthquakes that emerge in the Himalayan Thrust system under the influence of geo-dynamic push subjected to the striking of the Eurasian plate and Indian plate.

Sebastian elucidated, “The convergence of the Indian plate and the Eurasian plate, as they move towards each other, is a primary factor contributing to seismic activity in the region. This convergence also plays a role in the elevation of the Himalayan mountain range. The research paper underscores key tectonic features in the study area, including the Main Crustal Thrust, the Main Boundary Thrust, and the Main Frontal Thrust. Additionally, the Jwalamukhi Thrust, identified as a significant neo-tectonic fault, is present in the Himalayan Thrust. Notably, the active neo-tectonic fault, the Main Frontal Thrust, is situated 10 km from Una in Himachal Pradesh.”

She further explained that the study focused on the geo-dynamic aspects and dynamic properties of materials such as rock and soil. “The objective was to analyze the stability or instability of these materials under varying degrees of confining pressure, relative density, and strain. For example, higher confining pressure on soil reduces the likelihood of deformation, and vice versa,” she added. Sebastian emphasized that this study provides a foundational understanding for further research in seismic hazard analysis and ground response studies specific to the region.

Sebastian emphasized the significance of seismic hazard analysis in predicting earthquake risk and ground response assessments, which evaluate how the ground will shake during an earthquake. “Both aspects contribute to the design and planning of resilient buildings and infrastructure capable of withstanding potential seismic events. While minor seismic activities are a daily occurrence globally, our study specifically considered data related to earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 4,” she noted.

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