Gates of Hell to be Sealed

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan has delivered some bittersweet news. Turkmenistan plans to seal the iconic, and accidental, Darvaza gas crater.

Affectionately known as the “Gates of Hell”, the Soviets created the 20m deep hole in the 1970s. Soviet scientists reportedly lit the gas leaks in the pit to stop the gas from spreading. It has been burning ever since, emitting millions of tonnes of methane into the atmosphere. The Turkmen President’s main concern is the health and safety of nearby residents, the environmental impact is another, and it affects the economy. 

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. Photo: Shutterstock

Better to export the natural gas produced

Turkmenistan’s economy is heavily reliant on natural gas and less so on tourism, despite the sector showing some promise because of the crater’s popularity. President Berdymukhamedov believes Turkmenistan should focus on processing the gas to export overseas.

This isn’t the first time the Turkmen president proposed sealing the crater. He has been championing this suggestion since 2010 but has taken no serious action. Now, he is calling on experts to find an effective solution. 

The crater releases millions of tonnes of methane into the atmosphere. Photo: Antonin Vinter/Shutterstock

Clearly, the crater has an environmental impact and its closure is a logical choice. Despite this, we’ll be sad to see it go. The sight had become something of a tourist sensation. Visitors venture to the region to explore the “Gates of Hell” and the surrounding desert. Astrobiologists have used it to study extremophiles, which potentially simulate life on other planets. And of course, it’s a spectacular sight.