Journal of Geographic Information System, 2010, 2, 169-176
doi:10.4236/jgis.2010.23024 Published Online July 2010 (
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JGIS
Neotectonic Evidences of Rejuvenation in Kaurik-Chango
Fault Zone, Northwestern Himalaya
Moulishree Joshi1, Girish Chandra Kothyari2, Arun Ahluvalia3, Pitambar Datta Pant1
1Department of Geology, Kumaun University, Nainital, Uttarakhand, India
2Institute of Seismological Research, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India
3Centre for Advanced Studies in Geology, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India
Received April 28, 2010; revised May 30, 2010; accepted June 6, 2010
Neotectonic investigations using morphotectonic parameters such as basin asymmetry, drainage anomalies,
digital data interpretation and geomorphic field evidences were carried out in Satluj river valley downstream
of Khab in the Kaurik Chango Fault (KCF) zone. The study reveals the presence of a north-south trending
fault which is similar to the KCF. Unpaired, tilted terraces, V shaped valleys, deep gorges and lakes are the
manifestations of fault movement in the area. Presence of deformation structures preserved in the palaeolake
profile at Morang indicates that the area has also been seismically active in the past. In this paper we present
a conceptual model of the formation of lakes in KCF zone. Morphometric analysis was carried out with the
help of Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) and field investigations.
Keywords: Neotectonics, Kaurik Chango, Kinnaur, Satluj
1. Introduction
Himalayan mountain range was created as a result of the
collision of the Indian and the Asian plate. Ensuing tect-
onic turmoil is witnessed in the form of intra-continental
deformation along major faults and thrusts [1-4]. The Hi-
malayan region is dissected by several NW-SE trending
regional thrusts namely Indo Tsangpo Suture Zone, Main
Central Thrust and Main Boundary Thrust. These thrust
planes and their subsidiary fault systems are the foci of
several devastating earthquakes. In the Satluj-Spiti river
valleys, a number of N-S trending faults have disturbed
the Precambrian-Palaeozoic succession of the Tethys Hi-
malaya [5-8]. Kinnaur lies in the Higher Himalayan reg-
ion between Main Central Thrust (MCT) and Indo-Tsan-
gpo Suture Zone (ITSZ).
The expression of active tectonism in Kinnaur is refle-
cted in tilted terraces, V shaped valleys, convex slopes,
rampant landslides and gorges. Kinnaur is a seismically
active segment of the Himalaya. A major earthquake of
magnitude > 6.8 occurred in this region in 1975 [9]. The
region exhibits diverse deformation including strike-slip,
normal and thrust faulting [10]. Kaurik-Chango fault has
been studied in detail by several workers [9-13]. Several
palaeolake profiles have been reported along the Kaurik
Chango fault in the upper Spiti valley [10,12-15]. Howe-
ver, research has not been done in the area between Khab
and Akpa. This paper is an attempt to study the neotec-
tonic activity in the area using morphotectonic paramet-
ers. The study area lies between 78˚00΄ and 79˚00΄ E and
31˚25΄ to 32˚ N in the rugged Higher Himalayan terrain
characterized by barren slopes and steep gradient.
2. Geology of the Area
Satluj River has been studied in detail by a number of
workers [7,16-19]. The study area comprises thick succ-
ession of medium to high grade metamorphic rocks and
their sedimentary cover. The succession is emplaced by
granite intrusions of varying ages. Rocks of Vaikrita and
Haimanta Groups are exposed in the region Figure 1(a).
Vaikrita Group comprises psammatic gneiss with quartz-
ite bands, banded gneiss, granite gneiss, quartz mica gne-
iss. Haimanta Group comprises grey-purple quartzites,
black carbonaceous phyllites and quartz mica schist in-
terbedded with amphibolites and calc schists [19].
Figure 1(b) shows the SRTM image of the study area.
River Spiti takes an abrupt southerly turn and flows par-
allel to the Kaurik-Chango fault near Sumdo. Seven ter-
races have been observed on the eastern bank [19]. There
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JGIS
is no evidence of terraces on the western bank. This may
be due to the shifting of the river westward owing to the
uplifted eastern block of the Kaurik Chango fault [20].
Quaternary fluvio-lacustrine deposits occur all along the
Satluj valley downstream of Khab. These deposits are
well preserved on the eastern bank. Several evidences ga-
thered during the present work between Khab and Akpa
indicate that Kaurik-Chango fault extends downward
upto Akpa showing an uplifted eastern block. There are
indications of tectonic and seismic activity similar to
those in the Spiti valley.
In this paper, several morphotectonic indices were us-
ed to analyze the tectonic deformation in the area. Digital
Elevation Model and satellite data were used to study the
landscape evolution of the region. Field investigations
were carried out to verify the data generated in the lab.
Figure 1. (a) Geological map of the study area (after Bhargava and Bassi, 1998); (b) SRTM image of Himachal Himalaya
showing the location of the study areas. Also marked are the major drainage, thrusts and faults in the study area (image
taken from NASA-SRTM program).
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JGIS
3. Methodology
Digital data interpretation was carried out with the help
of a 3D Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and 2D topog-
raphic map to the scale 1:50,000. The softwares that
were used to process the digital data are Surfer 9.6 and
Globe Mapper. The Digital Elevation Model (DEM)
Figure 2(a) of the area indicates significant changes in
the topography and development of geomorphic features
such as fault facets, abruptly changing river course, mea-
ndering and widening of the river, formation of terraces,
vertical down cutting and formation of gorges. The uplif-
ted eastern block can be seen clearly in the model. SR-
TM data of the study area was downloaded from the site
(http: // Basin asymmetry was calcula-
ted with the help of the SRTM data Figure 2(b). Asym-
metry factor AF is defined as AF = 100 (Ar/At) where Ar
is the area of the basin to the right (facing downstream)
Figure 2. (a) Digital elevation model of the study area; (b) SRTM image of the study area showing basin asymmetry.
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JGIS
of the trunk stream and At is the total area of the drain-
age basin. In case of tectonic tilting, the value of AF be-
comes greater than 50 and the tributaries present on the
tilted side of the main stream grow longer than those on
the other side [21]. Transverse topographic symmetry
factor (T) is defined as T = Da/Dd where Da is the dis-
tance from midline of the drainage basin to the midline
of the active meander belt. Dd is the distance from the
basin midline to basin divide. Value of T ranges between
0 to 1. T = 0 implies a perfectly symmetrical basin and T
= 1, a perfectly asymmetrical one [20,21].
The landscape morphology of an area is governed by
drainage of the rivers and their tributaries. Tectonic defo-
rmation has a direct impact on the drainage of that area.
Tectonic deformation changes the channel slope which is
responsible for variation in the channel morphology
Drainage map and stream profiles were prepared with
the help of the SRTM data. Valley incision is used to
define relative uplift [24,28]. Cross valley profile for the
Satluj basin was prepared with the help of SRTM data. A
high valley-floor-width to valley-height ratio (seen in a
broad valley) indicates tectonic stability. On the other ha-
nd, a low valley-floor-width to valley-height ratio (seen
in a narrow valley) is associated with recent tectonic mo-
vement [29]. Asymmetry Factor calculated for the Satluj
river basin is 55.84 indicating that the basin is asymmet-
rical. Transverse Topographic symmetry factor (T) cal-
culated for the basin is given in Table 1. The data clearly
shows that the basin is tilted towards the northwest Fig-
ure 2(b).
4. Drainage and Stream Profiles
Drainage map of the area shows lower order streams joi-
ning the trunk stream at 90˚. The streams on the eastern
block are longer and more in number compared to those
on the western block. River Satluj flows through a crys-
talline basement belonging to Vaikrita Group. The area
lies in the Kaurik-Chango fault zone. Quaternary reacti-
vation of these faults has lead to bedrock incision by
Satluj which flows in a gorge for most of its course in the
study area Figure 3(a). Longitudinal profile of Satluj
shows a change in elevation near Spilu. Between Spilu
and Akpa, the river has carved a deep gorge. This abrupt
change in river morphology indicates that the river
course in this region is tectonically controlled Figures
3(b)-(c). Low valley floor width to height ratio suggests
that the river is cutting downwards due to the tectonic
activity in the region.
5. Geomorphology
The Satluj river basin under investigation is a rectangular
basin with an area of 1839 sq km. The mean height of the
basin is 3118.3 m. River Satluj is a 4th order stream as
per the Horton–Strahler method of stream ordering. The
highest point in the basin is about 4400 m. The total ba-
sin relief is 2400 m. The streams on the eastern block
flow in escarpments along most of their course. Land-
slide cones and springs are rampant on the eastern block
Figure 3(e). The river flows in a narrow valley for most
of its stretch from Spilu to Morang Figure 4(a).
River Satluj has carved three levels of unpaired ter-
races at Akpa Figure 4(b). The river in this region def-
lects abruptly towards the west. Tectonic rejuvenation of
the N-S fault has also caused the tilting of the terraces
Figure 4(c). Landslide cones and springs are rampant
along the N-S lineament Figure 4(d).
In Morang, fluvio-lacustrine deposits are exposed for
about 1 km Figure 4(e). These deposits are 60-70 m thick.
The sedimentary succession is represented by laminated
clay-silty clay and horizontally bedded sands. Laminated
sediments dominate the lake section. Presence of lacus-
trine deposits also suggests that neotectonic movements
along the N-S fault were responsible for blocking the
river and forming a lake. The uplifted eastern block led
to the damming of the rivulet, Khokpa nala. Ensuing lan-
dslides facilitated the formation of a lake on the footwall
Table 1. Morphometric characters of Satluj river showing active nature.
Basin Area
Total (Km2)
Asymmetry (AF)
Topographic symmetry
factor (T)
Valley Floor width
Ratio (Vf)
0.32 1.2
0.011 2.3
River 1839 55.84
3118.3 m
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(a) (e)
Figure 3. (a) Drainage map of the study area; (b) longitudinal profile of river Satluj in the study area; (c) cross valley profile
of river Satluj in the study area; (d) hypothetical model showing lake formation in KCF zone; (e) geomorphological map of
the study area.
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JGIS
(a) (b)
(c) (d)
(e) (f)
Figure 4. (a) River Satluj flowing in a narrow valley from Spilu to Morang; (b)-(c) three levels of unpaired terraces formed
by the river at Akpa, showing tilted surface; (d) recent landslide material; (e) fluvio lacustrine deposits at Morang; (f) sketch
of deformation structure in the lacustrine profile.
block Figure 3(d). At least five levels of deformation str-
uctures are exposed in the palaeolake profile at Morang
Figure 4(f).
6. Discussion
Kinnaur and Lahaul Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh
were severely rocked by a major earthquake of magnit-
ude > 6.8 in 1975. The earthquake was associated with
movements along a subvertical N-S trending normal fault
named Kaurik-Chango fault. Luminescence chronology
of seismites in Sumdo suggests that activation of Kau-
rik-Chango fault and seismic activity dates back to Late
Pleistocene [15].
In the present area of investigation, a N-S lineament
was observed along which river Satluj flows for a consi-
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JGIS
derable distance before getting deflected near Akpa. A
number of neotectonic evidences which were gathered
during the study testify to its active nature. Morphotec-
tonic parameters such as Asymmetry Factor (AF) and
Transverse topographic symmetry factor (T) as well as
the field evidences suggest that the Satluj river basin is
tilted. DEM of the area also shows the difference in elev-
ation of the two blocks. Drainage analysis clearly displ-
ays the effect of tectonic rejuvenation. Blocking of Kho-
kpa nala, a small rivulet took place due to fault move-
ment leading to the formation of Morang palaeolake on
the eastern block. Several levels of deformation structu-
res have been observed in the fluvio-lacustrine profile at
Morang. Similar structures are seen near Kaurik Chango
fault in Sumdo and Leo. Presence of deformation struc-
tures in the Morang fluvio-lacustrine profile indicate that
the area lies in the tectonically and seismically active
zone and has experienced several pulses of intense seis-
mic activity. Neotectonic indicators such as the uplifted
terrain, unpaired terraces, fluvio-lacustrine deposits, de-
formation structures, alignment of springs and landslides
in the fault zone are strong evidences of the active nature
of the N-S fault in the study area.
7. Acknowledgements
The first and second authors are grateful to CSIR, New
Delhi for providing financial support in the form of Res-
earch Associateship (9/428 (57) 2004-EMR-I) and Sen-
ior Research Fellowship (9.429(61)2K6-EMR1). Depar-
tment of Geology, Kumaun University Nainital is ackno-
wledged for providing facilities.
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