Improving the Understanding of the Distribution of Earthquake Hazard in Afghanistan

Improving the Understanding of the Distribution of Earthquake Hazard in Afghanistan

Zakeria Shnizai has joined the Department of Earth Sciences and St John’s College as a research visitor from Kabul Polytechnic University. His research will help develop resilience to natural hazards in his home country of Afghanistan by improving understanding of the distribution of earthquake hazard in Afghanistan and surrounding regions under realistic shaking scenarios.

Zakeria studies active faults and other processes which shaped the earth. He is investigating the reasons that influence the competitive performance of earthquakes, particularly in Afghanistan. In September 2020, he obtained his PhD degree in earth science from Doshisha University, Japan and after returning to Afghanistan, he continued his teaching at Kabul Polytechnic University where he was an assistant professor at the faculty of Geology and Mines until a few months ago. His research involves active and presumed active fault mapping across Afghanistan, as well as the first attempts to develop long-term slip rate estimates across the Chaman fault in the east of the country, which extends within the western portion of Kabul but there is still much work to be done in terms of regional mapping and in detailed site-specific investigations of earthquake histories.

Zakeria Shnizai’s research in Oxford is aimed at better understanding the distribution of earthquake hazard in Afghanistan and surrounding regions, and the risk that earthquakes pose to present-day populations and to estimates of economic loss under realistic shaking scenarios. He will also study active faults from their expression in the landscape and he looks forward to including the interpretation of historical and archaeological remains in the context of natural disasters. Together, the aim of this research is to reduce the societal impacts of earthquakes and related hazards in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is prone to earthquakes which, when combined with the vulnerability of the populations, leads to continuing heightened loss of life. In June 2022, a magnitude-6.1 earthquake struck the Afghanistan–Pakistan border in the early morning hours and though relatively moderate in size it killed more than 1,050 people and injured almost 3,000 more.

The outsized destruction wrought by such earthquakes in Afghanistan is caused by a combination of geography, economy, and the widespread use of traditional construction techniques. Traditional building methods are well suited to the climate but are susceptible to collapse from shaking. In addition these buildings are often clustered in narrow fringes between desert and mountains which are practical for settlement but formed by active faults.

Read the following article by Zakeria, Oxford Earth Sciences colleague Richard Walker and others, to learn more about the multiple factors that make Afghan communities vulnerable to earthquakes and the motivation behind Zakeria’s research in Oxford.

Multiple factors make Afghan communities vulnerable to earthquakes