New Delhi: Pointing to an increase in tectonic activities that escalate the chances of more earthquakes in India, experts say the country's preparedness to deal with the disasters seems to be missing. 'Nearly 60 percent of India is prone to earthquake,' India Meteorological Department's seismology department director BR Vaidya said.

The Sunday evening quake that has killed 68 people and injured 300 in the Northeast and east was caused by a collision between the Indian plate and the Eurasian plate. The boundary between the plates is broadly along the Himalayas.

The Indian plate usually has a north and Northeastward movement. But scientists say Sunday's quake indicates a westward movement.

“Over the last 100 years, there has been an increase in global tectonic activities,” RK Chadha of Hyderabad's National Geophysical Research Institute said.

“Particularly from 2000, there has been an increase in earthquake activities. The 2004 Sumatra quake in Indonesia, which registered 9.3 magnitude, has triggered stress in many areas. The stress is accumulated wherever the earth is weak,” he said.

Chadha said the movement in the Indian plate was around 1 to 2 mm after the Sunday earthquake that rattled large parts of India, from Sikkim to Bihar. It also shook Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh. It had its epicentre in Sikkim.

“With the effect visible on the surface and the registered 6.9 magnitude, we can estimate that it can be 1 to 2 mm,” he said.

Even as most parts of India lie in a high risk zone for earthquakes, the country has little preparedness for dealing with the impact.

In September, India witnessed five earthquakes. Apart from the Sikkim quake, a smaller quake measuring 3.9 hit Maharashtra early on Monday. A quake was reported in Manipur's Ukhrul district on September 4 with a 4.2 intensity. Another of 4.2 intensity had its epicentre in Haryana's Sonepat region on September 7. A September 11 quake had its epicentre in Gujarat's Kutch region but its intensity was a mere 3.4.

Jamia Millia Islamia civil engineering department Professor Gauhar Mahmood said the tremors take place due to the movement in the plates but the damage is caused by wrong planning.                                                                                                                                                                            

The Northern plains of India along with the Himalayas lie on the border of the Eurasian and Indian plates.

“The Himalayas are 65 million years old and the youngest mountain chain. Their uplifting is still going on, making the area highly unstable,” Mahmood said.

He said planning and precautions are the only possible guard against major damage.

“The only precaution is best city planning with wider roads and earthquake-proof structures.”

“Extra care is required for Delhi as no building bye-laws are followed. With one square kilometre populated with thousands of people, we should take precautions like making earthquake-resistant buildings which are load-bearing with strong pillars,” Mahmood said.

According to the expert, until 1995 Delhi was under Zone 3, which is a moderate risk zone. But later it was updated to Zone 4 - a high damage risk zone.

“Seventy percent of the houses comply to Zone 3 conditions. But as Delhi is now under Zone 4, at least proper retro-fitting should be done for the older buildings,” he said.

Officials at the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) agreed that repeated earthquakes are a warning bell for the government to sensitise the people to constructing quake-resistant buildings.

“We wait till the disaster strikes us. After the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, for three-four months everyone was talking about preventive measures but no productive steps were taken.”

“The country is not prepared for any high-intensity earthquake. We have no safety measures implemented,” said an NDMA official, pleading anonymity.

(Agencies)