After the October 8, 2005 Muzaffarabad earthquake, which claimed over 87,000 lives and caused widespread destruction on either side of the LoC, monitoring the build up of stress levels within Kashmir mountains leading to potential earthquake has come under a sharp focus with the department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, which has agreed to fund the setting up of three permanent Global Positioning System (GPS) stations in the Kashmir Himalayas.
"There is a consensus among experts that after Muzaffarabad earthquake, stresses have started building up towards Kashmir," said MI Bhat, a professor of department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Kashmir adding, "We're in a grey area because we do not know exactly whether the stress build up is towards the faults along the Pir Pinjal range or towards the faults within the Kashmir basin."
Talking to Hindustan Times, Bhat said that the GPS studies can come handy and should provide very reliable data. In any case, he said, keeping the earthquake history and telltale marks of active faults in Kashmir in view, the situation is not indeed comforting.
Bhat presented the study programme on crustal deformation in Kashmir Himalayas through GPS aided geodetic technique before the Expert Group on GPS Program of the department of Science and Technology, at the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism, Mumbai on January 12, 2007 following which the three GPS stations were approved.
He said for Kashmir Himalayas these stations are just the beginning. Of the three stations, two will be located in the Valley and one in Jammu region. The Jammu station will be established GR Prasad, Head of the Department of Geology, Jammu University.
"There is need for many more stations given the geologic structure and vulnerability of the Kashmir region," Bhat added.
Two years back the installation of a seismic observatory at Gulmarg, funded by the department of Science and Technology had run into rough weather due to red tape and bureaucratic wrangles in the Kashmir University. Mercifully, the project was revived by the intervention of the DST.
With the chief minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is the Pro-Chancellor of the Kashmir University, keenly interested in identifying ways to reduce the risk to human life and property in the event of a similar calamity in J&K, this time round, it is hoped that no such bureaucratic obstructions are created in the way of the installation of the GPS stations.
Explaining the importance of GPS stations, Bhat said the GPS technique allows monitoring of the geographic location of a GPS station, an, in turn, the geographic location of the spot over which GPS station is built, through regular satellite signaling with reference to a certain reference frame.
Any change in the location of the station site over time allows calculation of movement direction of the station site and resultant build up of stresses within rocks. The technique is simple, cost effective and is regarded highly useful tool for crustal deformation and earthquake studies.
Due to high seismic vulnerability of the Himalayas, department of Science and Technology has funded establishment of a large number of GPS stations in the mountain belt.
GPS stations fairly densely cover Himachal Pradesh, Uttarkand and Northeastern region. Even in Nepal there are many GPS stations established by research teams from different countries.
Three GPS stations are also functional in Ladakh at Panamik, Leh and Hanle to monitor the Karakoram fault, which belongs to a different geologic setting with earthquake vulnerability consequences more for Nepal and Bihar.