Gateway of Hell: Turkmenistan | 11 Jan 2022

Why in News

Recently, Turkmenistan has decided to find a way to extinguish a fire in a huge natural gas (Mixture of methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen sulphide and helium) the Darvaza gas crater also known as the ‘Gateway to Hell’.

  • Turkmenistan has been at the centre of methane leakages. Out of the 50 most severe methane gas leakages onshore oil and gas operations in 2019, 31 were in Turkmenistan.
  • In addition to this, one of these leakages, “had a climate impact roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of all the cars in Arizona”.

Severity of Methane Leaks

  • Methane is the primary contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, a hazardous air pollutant and greenhouse gas, exposure to which causes 1 million premature deaths every year.
  • Methane is also a powerful greenhouse gas. Over a 20-year period, it is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide.

Key Points

  • About:
    • Located in the Karakum desert, 260 kilometres away from Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, the crater has been burning for the last 50 years.
    • The crater has become a significant tourist attraction in the country. In 2018, the country’s president officially renamed it as the “Shining of Karakum”.
  • Origin of Crater:
    • The details of the origin are not actually known but it has been said that the crater was created in 1971 during a Soviet drilling operation.
      • Soviet geologists were drilling for oil in the Karakum desert when they hit a pocket of natural gas by mistake, which caused the earth to collapse and ended up forming three huge sinkholes.
      • A sinkhole is a depression in the ground that has no natural external surface drainage.These are regions formed when underlying limestone bedrock is dissolved by groundwater.
    • Locals have also said that the crater was formed in the 1960s but wasn’t lit on fire until the 1980s.
    • It has also been said that since oil and gas were very expensive commodities during Soviet rule, the formation of the crater has remained a confidential piece of information.
  • Reason for Closing:
    • It negatively affects both the environment and the health of the people living nearby.
    • Loss of valuable natural resources for which they can get significant profits and use them for improving the wellbeing of people.
    • Hinders the accelerated industrial development of the subsoil riches of central Karakum.

Source: IE