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India to update quake profile, assess threats

India will undertake an assortment of geological missions to update the country's earthquake profile. One of these will, for the first time, mark out highly localised vulnerable municipal zones within major north Indian cities, like Delhi. Zia Haq reports. Shock and awe: for a safer India

india Updated: Sep 09, 2011 02:24 IST
Zia Haq

India will undertake an assortment of geological missions to update the country's earthquake profile. One of these will, for the first time, mark out highly localised vulnerable municipal zones within major north Indian cities, like Delhi.

Classification of some areas and streets as more vulnerable could result in planners subjecting them to more customised building norms, an official said.

Late on Wednesday night, Delhi was jolted by a moderate quake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale. Shock and awe: for a safer India

The project will develop "damage scenarios" for various urban centres in the Himalayan region with the 1905 and 1934 earthquakes as benchmarks.

Indian geological agencies have previously identified seismic zones within three cities - Delhi, Gangtok and Guwahati - but the latest mission will help spot even smaller seismic centres.

"We currently have some intra-city seismic maps, but are on a broader 50,000 scale. The new plan is to have more detailed maps on a scale of, say, 25,000," earth sciences secretary Shailesh Nayak told HT.

A second mission will study under-sea geophysical conditions off the Andamans for a better appraisal of tsunami threats.

A third Indo-German collaborative assignment, work on which has already started, seeks to lay a network of very deep seismic sensors in western India's Koyna region. This follows a January pact between the earth sciences ministry and the German Research Centre for Geosciences on behalf of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Programme, a multinational geosciences initiative.

"There is no technology yet to precisely predict an earthquake. But such studies and statistical models help improve forewarning systems to prevent or minimise damage," RS Dattarayan, head of seismology at the India Metrological Department, said.

Quakes, especially in high-seismic zones like Delhi, bring back concerns over scant regard for construction norms.