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The Terrible Human Tragedy: 2001 Gujarat Earthquake

2455 words (10 pages) Essay in Geography

08/02/20 Geography Reference this

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Research Paper

It was supposed to be a day of celebration on January 26th, 2001, not a human tragedy for the state of Gujarat, India. 2001 Gujarat Earthquake, also known as the Bhuj Earthquake stuck the Indian State of Gujarat, on the border of Pakistan (“2001 Gujarat earthquake”, n.d.). Earthquake can be defined as a sudden shaking of the ground due to seismic waves through the Earth rocks (Bolt, 2018). Seismic tremors happen regularly along geologic faults, restricted zones where shake masses move in connection to each other (Bolt, 2018).

2001 Gujarat Earthquake was one of the greatest disasters in the Indian history with a magnitude of 7.7 on Richter scale with an epicenter of a drought-affected area – Bhuj, in the state of Gujarat (Nandi, Mazumdar & Behrman, 2018).  The earthquake was massive and thus it affected 21 districts of 25 causing loss of life, economy and the demographic structure of the area (Nandi, Mazumdar & Behrman, 2018).  The earthquake occurred due to the convergent plate boundary between the Eurasian plate and the Indian Plate that pushed together to cause the earthquake (“2001 Gujarat earthquake”, n.d.).

Figure 1. The epicenter of the 2001 Bhuj Earthquake in the state of Gujarat. (Picture Citation: (“File:2001 Gujarat earthquake.jpg – Wikimedia Commons”, 2018)

Earthquakes are natural phenomena which are difficult to predict. Due to which the effect of the earthquake didn’t only took the affected the human lives (biosphere) and economy of the area but also affected the lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere of the Bhuj – Gujarat area.

The intense shaking of the earth’s surface can cause damage and loss of humans.  The Bhuj earthquake of 2001 reportedly killed twenty thousand people and about one hundred sixty-seven thousand were injured during the disaster, with a huge loss to property in the region and about four hundred seventeen thousand three hundred buildings were damaged or destroyed (Nandi, Mazumdar & Behrman, 2018). “The total direct economic losses were the US $ 2.88 billion, with an estimated US $ 1.86 billion cost of rehabilitating social and physical infrastructure” (Nandi, Mazumdar & Behrman, 2016). The loss of lives is a part of the biosphere, therefore one of the earth’s sphere was affected by the 7.7 magnitude earthquake that hit the western part of Gujarat.

Not only the biosphere, but the lithosphere and hydrosphere were also affected by the intense land deformations. Though the surface faulting was not observed on the ground surface; ground up lighting, ground slumping and deep cracks started to develop inside the Earth’s crust (Joshi & Gadkari, 2016). Liquefaction with the ejection of sand and copious water was widespread, Rann areas (salt plains), along rivers and in the coastal areas (Joshi & Gadkari, 2016).

Liquefaction happens when loosely packed, the water-logged residue at or close to the ground surface lose their quality considering solid ground shaking (Joshi & Gadkari, 2016).

Figure 2. Salt water on the surface because of the liquefaction through the crack. (Picture Citation: (“2001 gujarat earthquake liquefaction – Google Search”, 2018)

As extensional and compressional developments happen, groundwater is constrained upward because of compaction of water-containing subsurface structures (Joshi & Gadkari, 2016).  Liquefaction happening underneath structures and different structures can cause real harm during earthquakes (Joshi & Gadkari, 2016). In the zones of the Banni Plains, the Great Rann, the Gulf of Kutch and Little Rann, soil qualities and geography cause a high likelihood of liquefaction amid seismic occasions (Joshi & Gadkari, 2016). The salt pan is an effect of liquefaction that is experienced in the earthquake region – often in this region, there is a groundwater increase after the earthquake (Joshi & Gadkari, 2016). Bhuj is a dry region, and excessive ground water though can be helpful but affects the vegetation of the area. Hence, both hydrosphere and lithosphere are affected because the land becomes suitable for agriculture and the water is too salty for human consumption.

Earthquakes are unpredictable; tsunamis can also be one of the major disasters caused by the earthquake. Though Gujarat is covered with the Arabian Sea towards its left, the epicenter of the earthquake was far away, therefore, the possibility of a tsunami was decreased – not making it more terrible.

Earthquake doesn’t play a direct role in but it contributes to the enhancement of the greenhouse effect – that “releases methane from the pockets within the ground to the atmosphere by the movement of tectonic plates” (Bosch, Carpentieri & Rogers, n.d.). Methane and carbon dioxide both absorbs the radiation from the sun and this process warms up the atmosphere and the levels of the gases increase to higher than usual – increasing the Earth’s temperature (Bosch, Carpentieri & Rogers, n.d.). 

Though all the natural disaster is dangerous but Earthquake is on such disaster that is unpredictable and can cause a lot of damage to the human life. T he four spheres of Earth – Biosphere, Hydrosphere, Lithosphere and Atmosphere is impacted directly or indirectly during an Earthquake. “When one of the spheres is affected then at least one or more of the others will be affected as well because they all work together” (Bosch, Carpentieri & Rogers, n.d.).  Earthquake occurs due to the sudden shaking of the ground because of the movement of the seismic waves underneath the earth surface (Bolt, 2018).  When an earthquake occurs, the land is affected because it develops cracks within the crust of the earth that collapses and damages the buildings and cause lose of human lives (Bosch, Carpentieri & Rogers, n.d.).  Thus the developing of the cracks in Lithosphere and loss of human life (biosphere) is inter-connected. Also, earthquake cause tremor and panic in the area and panic can also cause loss of lives and animals. Gujarat being a dry region faces water shortage. During an earthquake the water table is more likely to get affected because of the salt pan that develop in the area due to which water level increases (Joshi & Gadkari, 2016) but the irrigation done in the region is more of dry vegetation which can affect the soil chemistry and destroy crops that directly affects the lithosphere and biosphere. “The creation of new springs and lakes created by ground breakage alters the surrounding environment. There is potential for flooding, changes in the food chain and can cause changes in animal behaviour in the area affected” (Bosch, Carpentieri & Rogers, n.d.).  Therefore, lithosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere form a connection during the disaster.  The three spheres of the Earth are directly affected during Earthquake but atmosphere indirectly harms the biosphere; during an earthquake methane gas is released from the cracks that develop within the crust, this results in heating of the atmosphere by absorption of the sun’s radiation (Bosch, Carpentieri & Rogers, n.d.). 

The cracks in the earth’s crust (lithosphere), loss of vegetation and life (biosphere), increase in the Earth temperature due to methane gas (atmosphere) and tempering with the soil chemistry through water increase (hydrosphere) is linked with an event of Earthquake. The four spheres of Earth interact with each other during a disaster but the most affect is the biosphere since there is nothing that can bring human life back. The 2001 Bhuj Earthquake took lives of many innocent people which cannot be recovered but we can take try preventing huge loss in future events by following proper measures during an Earthquake.



  • 2001 Gujarat earthquake. Retrieved from
  • Bolt, B. (2018). earthquake | Definition, Causes, Effects, & Facts. Retrieved from
  • Bosch, A., Carpentieri, C., & Rogers, H. Geohazards in SA: Earthquakes. Retrieved from earthquakesinsaustralia/home/earthquakes-impact-on-the-spheres
  • Joshi, K., & Gadkari, D. (2016). Quantification of intensity of landscape changes using remote sensing and GIS with special reference to the Bhuj earthquake (26th January, 2001, M = 7.9). Natural Hazards, 83(2), 989-1005. doi: 10.1007/s11069-016-2359-0
  • Nandi, A., Mazumdar, S., & Behrman, J. (2016). The effect of natural disaster on fertility, birth spacing, and child sex ratio: evidence from a major earthquake in India. Journal of Population Economics, 31(1), 267–293.

References (Images)


Annotated Bibliography

2001 Gujarat earthquake. Retrieved from

The writer of the article gives us brief introduction to the natural disaster that took place in Bhuj, Gujarat in the year 2001. The article provides us with stats of the people killed and injured during the disaster. The article is backed up with citations providing proof the facts stated are accurate. The article glimpse its light on the tectonic setting of the area that is how the tectonic plates – the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate had the continental collision resulting in the disaster of 2001 in India (“2001 Gujarat earthquake”, n.d.). The effects of the earthquake didn’t only damaged the building but it also effected the heritage buildings of the area which Gujarat is widely known for (“2001 Gujarat earthquake”, n.d.). The article, also provides us with the reconstruction, housing and city planning done of the area after the disaster and how many parts of the world came together to help in the moment of crisis by donating money (“2001 Gujarat earthquake”, n.d.).

Wikipedia is one of the resources that is used to find the basic information. Although the resource is not peer reviewed or scholarly written but gives a head start in the topic by providing a brief summary in regards to the topic.

Bolt, B. (2018). earthquake | Definition, Causes, Effects, & Facts. Retrieved from

Britannica is an online encyclopedia which attempts to gather all the information and make it compact for the usage. This is a good starting place to research but are not detailed enough to support an argument or justify it.  Sources like Wikipedia and Britannica can provide a good head start in regards to the topic and but are not journal article written by experts.

In the article the writer provides us with the definition of the Earthquake. What causes it and the effects of the earthquake in general. This gives the researcher a general idea and one can explorer topics using these general phrases.

Bosch, A., Carpentieri, C., & Rogers, H. Geohazards in SA: Earthquakes. Retrieved from earthquakesinsaustralia/home/earthquakes-impact-on-the-spheres

The article explains how four spheres of earth are interconnecting during Earthquakes.  In the event a seismic tremor occurs in a region with less compacted sediments that can be a form of destruction for the buildings and the structures (Bosch, Carpentieri & Rogers, n.d.).

Also, earthquakes contribute to increase the greenhouse impact by discharge methane from pockets inside the ground; Methane is one of the ozone depleting substances that warms the climate and since the dimensions of these gases are higher than expected, the air temperature has been increasing (Bosch, Carpentieri & Rogers, n.d.).  The hydrosphere can be deformed permanently because of the pressure that is created within the water table (Bosch, Carpentieri & Rogers, n.d.).Directly or indirectly all the four spheres of Earth affect the Biosphere the most.

Joshi, K., & Gadkari, D. (2016). Quantification of intensity of landscape changes using remote sensing and GIS with special reference to the Bhuj earthquake (26th January, 2001, M = 7.9). Natural Hazards, 83(2), 989-1005. doi: 10.1007

This is a scholarly article written in a Journal by expertise in the field of Geography. This article talks about the changes that happened after the Bhuj earthquake of January 26, 2001 and evaluate the force of changes utilizing remote detecting and GIS methods (Joshi & Gadkari, 2016).  With the help of the data the author comes to the conclusion that liquefaction and changes in salt pan were the major impact of the Earthquake on the sphere of the Earth (Joshi & Gadkari, 2016).  The author also explains about the surface faulting that took place inside the crust, ground slumping and deep cracks were developed inside the lithosphere(Joshi & Gadkari, 2016). 

Nandi, A., Mazumdar, S., & Behrman, J. (2018). The effect of natural disaster on fertility, birth spacing, and child sex ratio: evidence from a major earthquake in India. Journal of Population Economics, 31(1), 267–293.

This is scholarly article written in the Journal of Population Economics. The author discusses about the changes in the health, economics and the demographic of Gujarat after the Earthquake. The earthquake that hit on January 26 was one of the most powerful earthquakes in the recent years. The 7.7 magnitude earthquake affected 21 out of 25 districts of the area leaving everyone in shock (Nandi, Mazumdar & Behrman, 2018).  The writer discuss about the indirect effects of earthquake such as child birth, psychological problems, and other health issues (Nandi, Mazumdar & Behrman, 2018). Earthquakes not only causes disaster to land and property but leaves and impact that doesn’t help the society to increase for a long time, especially for the members of the family who lost someone in the disaster. 

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