Srinagar: When Khalid Bashir was a student of 7th class, a powerful 7.6 magnitude earthquake rattled Kashmir on October 8, 2005. Amid panic, he saw several structures tumbling like a pack of cards and heard cries for help.
As fate would have it, 17 years down the line, Khalid has been invited to present his research on capacity enhancement of building foundations in earthquake-prone hilly areas in a prestigious event in the United States.
“After all, earthquakes do not kill, unsafe buildings do,” Khalid told Greater Kashmir.
Thirty-year-old Khalid is Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Earthquake Engineering, at IIT Roorkee, working under the supervision of Prof Ravi Jakka. His research paper ‘Skirted Footing For Enhancing Load Carrying Capacity’ (Paper Id: 0621_0877_000083) has been accepted to present at GEO-Congress 2023, which is being conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) at Los Angeles, USA from March 26 to 29, 2023.
GEO-Congress 2023, USA, is a prestigious conference attended by researchers, scientists, engineers, and practitioners from all over the world.
Senior Manager, Global Programmes American Society of Civil Engineers Nives McLarty has invited Khalid to the event. Prof Arumugam Dean IIT Roorkee recommended his name as a deserving candidate for a VISA appointment on an emergency basis, which the US embassy reviewed and approved.
Originally from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, Khalid shifted to Rawalpora locality on Srinagar outskirts nearly two decades back. His father is an Associate Professor at the University of Kashmir.
Most parts of Jammu and Kashmir fall under high seismic Zones IV, V making J&K vulnerable to earthquakes. A study conducted by Roger Bilham, a seismologist and professor of Geology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, US, states that the major quake with magnitude 9 is likely to cause landslides and subsequent major destruction.
“The earthquake in 2005 changed my life and inspired him to take this domain as a research interest,” Khalid said.
“The destructive earthquake caused massive destruction especially in neighboring countries, killing an estimated 75,000, wounding 128,000 and displacing another 3.5 million. The culprit was unsafe buildings. One is inevitably left wondering whether the structures built since 2005 have been constructed specifically to withstand a stronger shock. Prominent researchers are expecting the next large earthquake could be as large as 7.8 magnitude,” he said.
Khalid took up science as a subject and graduated from Bharath Institute of Higher Education and Research, Chennai. He was awarded a Certificate of Merit, for outstanding performance securing sixth rank among 209 candidates who graduated in 2015.
“This little success gave me the much-needed confidence to be able to qualify the GATE exam and got admitted for my M Tech at NIT Agartala,” he said. “During Masters, I opted for studying Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering and this was the epicentre of my inspiration for continuing higher education.”
Khalid was fortunate to find a place in the Department of Earthquake Engineering – Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee for doing his PhD.
Till date, this department is the only one in the country that deals with earthquake engineering problems and challenges.
As a Senior Research Fellow at IIT Roorkee, Khalid said, “Geotechnical engineers play an important role in sustainability by characterising hazards ranging from earthquakes to landslides to wildfires to climate change, assessing their impact on our infrastructure systems, and implementing efficient, sustainable, and equitable solutions. Studying Earthquake Engineering came easily to me as I consider it the foundation of civil engineering. During my M Tech, I developed a passion for subjects related to the study of earthquake engineering. During the same year my research article was awarded the ‘Best Research Paper’ award at an international conference conducted by BITS Pillani.”
On why we need to take earthquake engineers onboard, he said: “We all know some parts of J&K are pinned under seismic zone 5 while remaining in Seismic Zone 4 with highest seismicity. These are referred to as the Very High and High Damage Risk Zones. The extent of damage to buildings depends not only on the magnitude of the earthquake but also on the type of construction practice followed in a particular region or country.”
Citing an example, Khalid said earthquakes in Japan or US may damage only a few buildings because strict construction regulations are adopted.
“But a similar earthquake may be catastrophic in J&K or other Himalayan regions in terms of buildings damaged and lives lost because the building design and construction practices are not adequately regulated. There is much we can do to protect our buildings and thus save lives,” he said. “Civil engineers globally are searching for alternative methods to improve the load carrying capacity of a foundation. With the increased population and urbanisation, people are going for high-rise structures, which increases foundation loads significantly. Further, due to scarcity of land, we are forced to construct structures on soft, loose soils and sloping grounds. Especially for northern Indian regions including J&K, hilly areas with attractive views represent luxurious conditions for housing development. Also, from the last two decades, a lot of resorts, residential houses, and other construction such as construction of transmission towers in our state emerged on hilly areas, sloping ground.”
Khalid said his research deals with designing the foundations for structures on hilly areas, which are prone to earthquakes.
“Also my research primarily focuses on providing economical solutions of designing foundations compared to other ground improvement options and deep foundations,” he said. “If I talk about the foundation of power transmission towers in hilly regions, which occupy a larger area and usually those sites are inaccessible for construction using advanced machinery. Our patent idea provides a novel and economical method in construction of foundation for power transmission towers and other structures at inaccessible location such as hilly areas.”
Khalid said that their proposed invention provides a practical solution to the method of installation, construction of foundation based on the concept of bio-inspired geotechnics by mimicking the tree root system.
“Trees are standing testament of nature’s engineering, which are surviving hundreds of years against seismic, wind, cyclone, and floods,” he said. “If our idea is successful, we are quite hopeful that this will bring revolution in the power sector of our state and northern India. We recently came in touch for possible collaboration with the Central Power Research Institute, Ministry of Power, Government of India which is regarded as power house of the Indian electrical industry.”
About his future goals, Khalid said, “It is to see myself among researchers and become an accepted and productive member of the research community of my state. Also I am looking forward to incubate my patent idea into a technology-based startup. I have filed a patent at the Indian patent office in January 2022 for ‘Bio-inspired Skirted Footing and Its Method of Installation’ in the name of Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee and further looking for the collaborators in planning to file the patent at United States Patent and Trademark.”
He said he believes that the upcoming Geo-Congress 2023 would further boost his research works.
“Thorough academic interactions with various other researchers from different countries will give me an insight into the work carried out in various universities as well. My dream is to contribute my bit to make this world a safe place to live,” Khalid said.