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Environment: Why closing the Hell Gates in Turkmenistan is a good idea

Environment: Why closing the Hell Gates in Turkmenistan is a good idea

Turkmenistan is contemplating closing its Gates of Hell. Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov the President of Turkmenistan, had directed authorities to find a way to put out the flames that have been burning for over a decade in the middle the desert.

The Darvaza Crater (or the Gates of Hell) is located in the middle of Karakum Desert, approximately 260 km north of Ashgabat. The crater measures 69m by 30m and has fires that have been raging for some time between the 1970s-1980s.

Who started the fire in the first place?

Although many believe the crater formed due to Soviet drilling mistakes, there is no evidence to support that theory. It is known that Turkmen geologists believe that the crater was formed in 1960s and that it was ignited in 1980s.

Natural gas keeps the fire burning brightly in the crater. Turkmenistan is home to the sixth-largest and fourth-largest reserves of natural gas in the entire world. However, this number can fluctuate according to estimates.

Berdymukhamedov referred to the crater as man-made, and said that the fire had harmed other reserves and endangered the safety of those living near the area. The president also spoke out against the adverse effects on the environment and health that resulted from the burning of large amounts of natural gas in the open.

In a televised speech, he stated that we are losing valuable natural resource for which we could make significant profits and use them to improve the well-being our people.

Environmental impact

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The closure of Darvaza Gas Crater is a welcome relief for the environment. The crater has been known to leak methane which is a significant component in natural gas. However, a large amount of the gas can escape without being ignited.

Methane has a greenhouse effect that is 80 times stronger than carbon dioxide. However, this effect is shorter-lasting because methane naturally degrades in the atmosphere.

According to the International Energy Agency, Turkmenistan is one of the largest methane emitters worldwide. It is second only to Iran, Russia, and the United States. The closure of the gas crater will decrease the methane emissions of the Central Asian nation to some extent.

(Edited by: Shoma Bhattacharjee)

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