At a time when Jammu and Kashmir is repeatedly jolted by earthquakes, a Delhi-based company is claiming that its "earthquake detector alarm" can beep seconds before a temblor strikes to enable people to rush to safer places. However, experts maintain that earthquakes cannot be predicted and only precautions can help minimize damage to life and property due to tremors.
Jammu and Kashmir is placed in seismic zone five, making it highly vulnerable to earthquakes.
On October 8, 2005, Kashmir was hit by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake with its epicenter in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, causing massive destruction of life and property in the affected areas including Jammu and Kashmir.
A study by Roger Bilham, prominent US-based seismologist in 2010 has warned that Kashmir Valley is likely to be hit by an earthquake of largest-ever magnitude. But he did not specify when and where it will exactly occur.
During the past four months, Kashmir has been jolted by several earthquakes, causing panic among people.
On January 13, Kashmir was shaken by 5.6-magnitude earthquake with epicenter in Afghanistan-Tajikistan border.
Tremors of magnitude 5.0 were experienced in Kashmir on January 8.
6.5-magnitude earthquake jolted Kashmir on December 26 last year.
On October 26, 2015, an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale rocked Afghanistan's Jarm city, shaking nearby Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir and other northern states.
The Union Home Ministry's disaster management experts recently warned of a bigger catastrophe, saying earthquakes with a magnitude of 8.2 or greater on the Richter Scale may hit the already-ruptured Himalayan region.
"Our device is designed to provide instant warning of seismic activity by detecting the "P" wave (compression wave) of an earthquake, which travels faster than the more destructive "S" wave (Shear wave). Only animals and birds can experience 'P' wave. The alarm can alert people in a building before the quake so that they can immediately take cover or rush to safer places," claims Akash Chauhan, Marketing Head of Delhi-based Safeplanet Innovations.
Elaborating, he said, the Primary waves are pressure waves that travel faster than other waves through the earth to arrive at seismograph stations first, hence the name "Primary". "These waves can travel through any type of material, including fluids, at nearly twice the speed of S waves."
"Secondary waves are transverse waves which involve movement of the ground perpendicular to the velocity of propagation. They travel only through solids. They are typically more damaging than the P waves because they are several times higher in amplitude. The device makes alarm sound once it detects the P wave and beeps after detecting the S wave," he said.
To avoid false alarms and panic, the device can detect earthquakes greater than magnitude 5.0.
"Our earthquake alarm can't be affected by any surrounding or environment sound. It only detects quake-waves above 5.0 magnitude," Chauhan said.
He claimed that the device has got patents in USA (6459379), Japan (3109113), Taiwan (182971) and China (0127534.9).
"The device has been manufactured after extensive research in collaboration with experts of various countries. We are awaiting patent from IIT Roorkee, however the device has been installed in most of the buildings in New Delhi and other northern states and we have received positive feedback. The device is suited for Kashmir is it is situated in seismic zone five. We plan to launch awareness campaign in Valley. Our concern is safety of people more than commercial interests. We have priced the product at Rs 4,000 per unit," he said.
Chauhan said the company will launch awareness campaign in Kashmir about earthquakes and the alarm.
However, experts maintain that there is no mechanism to predict earthquakes. "The mountainous Jammu and Kashmir, situated in the western Himalaya, is one of the most energetic segments of Himalayan tectonics. A dozen damaging earthquakes have occurred in Kashmir during the past millennium. However, our current state of knowledge of the earthquake cycle in the Himalayas does not allow us to reliably forecast as to when and where the next major seismic event will occur," said Prof ShakilRomshoo, Head of Department of Earth Sciences at Kashmir University.
"However, there is no doubt that we are vulnerable to earthquakes and we all need to examine our readiness to protect ourselves in the event of such a disaster," he said.
He underscored the need to initiate various programs for building the capacity of the people and the government towards establishing a "culture of disaster preparedness" in the state. "The State Disaster Management Authority has a very vital role to play in making the state disaster-resilient. There is a dire need to take up measures at individual, community and government level to reduce the risk to people and property due to earthquakes so that we can create a community of disaster-conscious citizenry in the state," Prof Romshoo said.
Pertinently, Mexico is among few places to have installed an advance seismic warning system.
On September, 19, 1985 a devastating earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter Scale smashed into Mexico City killing 10,000 people and leaving parts of the city in ruins. Since then, the populous Latin American nation of 122 million has invested in one of the most advanced seismic warning systems anywhere in the world.
"There is no technology till date that can predict exact timing of earthquakes. However, it is a known fact that Himalayas in Kashmir are tectonically active and highly vulnerable to earthquakes which can strike anytime. We can at just take precautions to minimize damage to life and property during quakes," said noted geoscientist Abdul Majeed Butt.