Why is Delhi vulnerable to earthquakes

Mild tremors from the earthquake that devastated parts of Nepal on Saturday were felt 600 miles away in Delhi.

But geological experts say a temblor of similar magnitude could someday strike closer to the densely-populated Indian capital, which sits on three active fault lines.

“There is a chance such an earthquake could strike Delhi,” said Mukat Lal Sharma, the head of the earthquake engineering department at the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, Uttarakhand.

Delhi is designated as a category-four seismic zone. Zones – marked one to five –indicate areas most likely to experience tremors with five being the most vulnerable.

In India, only the Himalayan region, which includes the country’s northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir, is a category five seismic zone.

At least five devastating earthquakes measuring higher than magnitude-5 have hit Delhi since 1720, Mr. Sharma said.

In India, seismologists determine vulnerability of cities to quakes based on proximity to the Himalayas, the mountain range that was created by the collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates.

Earthquake engineers also study the density of high-rise buildings and local soil conditions to determine how great the devastation from a tremor would be.

Neighborhoods in Delhi most susceptible to damage include areas that lie about two miles on either side of the Yamuna river, the southwestern outskirts of the city known as the Chhattarpur basin, as well as an area popularly known as The Ridge in Delhi, said Mr. Sharma.


About the author

Asmaa Mubita is a Kenyan journalist of international repute with over fifteen years of experience in broadcast journalism. Asmaa Mubita began his journalism career at the Kenyan state broadcaster (KBC) and later worked at the KTN owned by the Standard Group and Citizen Television, the flagship brand of Royal Media Services. These exploits together with his reporting experience with the Voice of America, CNN and BBC have been rewarded with local and global recognition.