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Geodynamics and potentiality of large earthquakes in densely populated Bangladesh: Constrained from GPS
  • Syed Humayun Akhter,
  • Michael Steckler
Syed Humayun Akhter
Dhaka University, Dhaka University

Corresponding Author:shakhter@du.ac.bd

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Michael Steckler
Columbia University, Columbia University
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Bangladesh, a small and over populated country in Southeast Asia occupies most of the Bengal Basin that results from sediments derived from the collision of India with Asia. The basin is filled with a 19 km thick sequence of Cenozoic sediments deposited by the mighty rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra. Unconsolidated Holocene sediments susceptible to seismic amplification characterize the upper part of the Cenozoic sequence. Bangladesh sits a top on three tectonic plates; India, Tibet and Burma. The India plate is colliding with the Tibet subplate to the north, which gives rise to great Himalayas, while to the east it is subducting beneath Burma and Sunda slivers, which gave rise to Indo-Burma arc. The Surma basin of NE Bangladesh is being underthrust under the Shillong massif producing the 2-km high plateau. The Indo-Burma fold and thrust belt results from the oblique subduction of the thick sediments of the Bengal Basin on the India plate that has deformed into a series of north-south trending en-echelon folds and thrust faults. The faults rooting these folds and the underlying megathrust are capable of generating devastating earthquakes in and around Bangladesh. Past earthquakes have brought changes to the landscape, avulsion of rivers Brahmaputra and Meghna, migration of human settlements, and widespread sand liquefactions and sand and/or mud eruptions. Our GPS study demonstrated that the landward extension of Andaman-Sumatra subduction zone into Indo-Burma subduction in deltaic Bangladesh is active. The present day India-Burma oblique convergence rate is 17 mm/y and that the décollement beneath the fold-thrust belt is locked (Steckler et. al., 2016). The western part of the subduction zone over a shallow décollement shows little seismicity whereas the eastern part shows moderate seismicity of magnitude 4 to 6. Based on the GPS velocity across the fold belt and seismicity the Indo-Burma subduction zone can be potentially be divided into locked western segment and slipping eastern segment, analogous to Cascadia subduction zone. Fold belt parallel shortening across Dauki Fault in Shillong is 7 mm/yr, which is another potential source of a large earthquake. The huge population might be severely ravaged by devastating earthquakes from both these sources.