Saturday, December 5, 2009

U.S. Geological Survey and earthquakes in Afghanistan

An agreement between Afghanistan and the U.S. Agency for International Development and the USGS Policy Analysis and Science Assistance Branch (PASA) agreement was signed in September of 2004. This PASA initiated a USGS program in natural resources/hazards assessment for Afghanistan as part of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Program. The initial activities included coal, mineral and water resources assessments and earthquake hazard assessment. The U.S.Trade and Development Agency is also funding the USGS to conduct an oil and gas resources assessment of the country.

There are several hazards documents on the program webpage.  Included is a fact sheet on the earthquake hazard in Afghanistan.  It explains:
The nation of Afghanistan is located in a geologically active part of the world where the northward-moving Indian plate is colliding with southern part of the Eurasian plate at a rate of about 1.7 inches per year (43 mm/yr). This collision has created the world’s highest mountains and causes slips on major faults that generate large, often devastating earth- quakes. An example is the magnitude 7.6 earthquake on October 8, 2005, in Kashmir, Pakistan, which caused more than 80,000 fatalities and left an estimated 4 million people homeless.

Each year Afghanistan is struck by moderate to strong earthquakes, and every few years, a powerful earthquake causes significant damage or fatalities. As Afghanistan rebuilds following decades of war and strife, new construction and development need to be designed to accommodate the hazards posed by strong earthquakes. To assist in reconstruction efforts, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has developed a preliminary seismic-hazard map of Afghanistan.

Click on the figure for a larger image.

As for the rest of the upcoming endeavors of the U.S. in Afghanistan, I tend to agree with Andrew Bacevich (see or listen to his interview on NPR, for example) that President Obama's decision to send more troops there is arbitrary and not well fitted to protecting us here at home, if indeed that is the goal.  The hope for quick success is ahistorical and based on faulty assumptions. But I guess those discussions should preoccupy other bloggers.