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Prelims Capsule

Disaster Management

6.4 Magnitude Earthquake jolts Assam – Why North East India is prone to frequent earthquakes?

6.4 Magnitude Earthquake jolts Assam – Why North East India is prone to frequent earthquakes?


  • GS 3 || Disaster Management || Major Disasters || Earthquake

Why in the news?

Assam Earthquake: 6.4 magnitude quake, 7 aftershocks jolt North-east, tremors felt in Bengal

Present Context:

  • The tremors have been traced to the Kopili Fault zone, which is closer to the Himalayan Frontal Thrust, according to the National Centre for Seismology (NCS) survey (HFT).
  • The National Earthquake Surveillance System (NCS) is the government of India’s nodal agency for monitoring earthquake activity in the region. The Ministry of Earth Sciences is in charge of it.

North India earthquake areas:

  • The high vulnerability and seismic risk in India can be attributed to the fact that 10.9% of its geographical area falls in the seismic Zone V.
  • This zone is vulnerable to very high seismic risk. Add on to it that 17.3% of India’s geographical area falls in seismic Zone IV which is also vulnerable to high seismic risk. Clubbed together, these two zones alone covers 28.2 % of India’s geographical area.
  • India has been divided into four seismic zones (II, III, IV, and V) based on scientific inputs relating to seismicity, earthquakes occurred in the past and tectonic setup of the region.
    • Seismic Zone II: Area with minor damage earthquakes corresponding to intensities V to VI of MM scale (MM-Modified Mercalli Intensity scale).
    • Seismic Zone III: Moderate damage corresponding to intensity VII of MM scale.
    • Seismic Zone IV: Major damage corresponding to intensity VII and higher of MM scale.
    • Seismic Zone V: Area determined by pro seismically of certain major fault systems and is seismically the most active region. Earthquake zone V is the most vulnerable to earthquakes, where historically some of the country’s most powerful shocks have occurred. Earthquakes with magnitudes in excess of 7.0 have occured in these areas, and have had intensities higher than IX.
  • Assam- Assam falls in zone five of the seismic zones in India which is highly prone to earthquakes. The place has seen some of the deadliest earthquakes and even today small tremors are a common situation.

Risk zone:

  • The high seismic risk and vulnerability in India can be seen from the fact that 10.9% of its geographical area falls in the seismic zone V which is vulnerable to very high seismic risk, while 17.3% of its geographical area falls in seismic zone IV vulnerable to high seismic risk.
  • Together, these two zones cover 28.2 % of India’s geographical area. According to the Vulnerability Atlas of India prepared by the Building Materials Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC), 229 districts of India fall within seismic zones IV and V.
  • This Vulnerability Atlas has been prepared based on the past trends of earthquakes in the country and efforts are now under way to prepare a probabilistic seismic hazard map for India, with the help of seismic experts and scientific institutions, to more realistically reflect the seismic risk and vulnerability profile of the country.
  • Given the high seismic risk as reflected in the vulnerability of 229 districts in 22 states and union territories of India, the Government of India has initiated several pioneering efforts to strengthen the earthquake preparedness in the country through a proposed National Earthquake Risk Mitigation Project (NERMP) which is currently getting finalized.

Construction of all new structures:

  • The high seismic risk in the North East makes it imperative that all new construction of buildings, public infrastructure, amenities and assets coming up in the region will have to strictly comply with the codal provisions of the National Building Code 2005, relevant earthquake-resistant building codes and other safety codes.
  • The officials responsible for scrutinizing building plans and granting building permissions have to be made aware of the existing standards and codes which have to be followed while carrying out the construction of structures in high and very high risk zones.
  • The grant of bank loans for the construction of any new structures has to be made contingent on the compliance certificate issued by a competent structural engineer that the design of the structure has incorporated the necessary earthquake-resistant features as mandated by the National Building Code 2005, relevant earthquake-resistant building codes and other relevant safety codes.

Public Awareness on Earthquake Risk and Vulnerability:

  • Risk and vulnerability in the North Eastern states, as an aware community is better prepared to face earthquakes when they occur and to minimize the loss of lives, injury and loss of assets, property and infrastructure through their conscious actions.
  • NDMA, in collaboration with the state governments and State Disaster Management Authorities, proposes to launch intensive public awareness campaigns on earthquake risk and vulnerability in earthquake-prone areas, using electronic and print media as well as street plays, hoardings, wall paintings, etc.
  • Special campaigns will address youth in educational institutions and children in school going age groups to disseminate the public awareness messages among their neighbourhood communities.
  • In the event of the sudden occurrence of an earthquake, the local communities must have the basic skills of search and rescue, evacuation, establishment of temporary shelters, emergency first aid, distribution of relief to the affected households, etc.
  • Village level disaster management task forces have been set up in several villages to carry out tasks like search and rescue, first aid, shelter management, relief coordination, needs & damage assessment, distribution of relief, water & sanitation in the disaster-affected villages, trauma counseling, patrolling, and disposal of dead bodies and animal carcasses, etc.
  • The public awareness campaigns will be supported by other stakeholders like corporate sector, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations and community based organizations like mahila mandals, yuvak mandals, self-help groups, etc.

Institutional Capacity Development:

  • With the active involvement of the State Governments, the Government of India will strengthen the institutional capacity in the North Eastern region in the field of disaster management.
  • This will include strengthening of the Communication network and network of seismic monitoring stations in the North Eastern region,
    • improving the scientific capability of science and technology institutions, academic, professional and research institutions in the region, incorporation of disaster management in the curricula of educational institutions and professional and vocational institutions,
    • Support to research and development initiatives and documentation of coping strategies and good practices and their wide dissemination in earthquake-prone areas.

Government initiative: 

  • The Government of India has deployed a well-trained and well equipped battalion of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) at Assam for the North-Eastern states.
  • Specialized teams of this battalion have also carried out familiarization visits in the various North-Eastern states and interacted with state government and district administration officials and conducted community capacity building sessions.
  • State Governments have been advised to establish State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) units from their existing police force and such forces will be trained and equipped with lifesaving equipment purchased with 10% of the Calamity Relief Fund allocations to the states.
  • The volunteers of the Indian Red Cross Society chapters, Nehru Yuvak Kendra, National Social Service, National Cadet Corps, Home Guards and Civil Defence, etc. will be trained to carry out specific disaster management related tasks to assist the district administration.
  • Elected representatives of the Panchayati Raj Institutions will also be encouraged to play an important leadership role in coordinating the disaster management efforts at the local levels.

Case study-Delhi Earthquakes

  • Release of Energy: The release of strain energy that accumulates as a result of the Indian plate’s northward movement and collision with the Eurasian plate via weak zones or faults.
  • Plate Movement: The Himalayan seismic belt is the region where the Indian and Eurasian plates collided and under-thrusted beneath the Himalayan wedge.
  • The Himalayas are close by: Delhi-NCR is not far from the entire north-west and north-east of India. The Himalayan belt is located in seismic zones V and IV, which are prone to major and major earthquakes.


Public infrastructure and amenities in the region will have to be designed with special attention to the earthquake risk and vulnerability in the region. Simultaneously, there is a greater need to strengthen the medical preparedness and mass casualty management facilities in the region by planning the procurement of helicopter ambulances, containerized mobile field hospitals and integrated ambulance network. The public awareness on earthquake risk and vulnerability will become the foundation for an enlightened multi-stakeholder initiative to launch a concerted attempt to usher in a culture of preparedness, mitigation and improved emergency response in the North Eastern Region.

Mains oriented question:

What are the major regions for earthquakes in most of the region north-east, how the area has develop itself with better infrastructure to protect itself with natural calamities?