Jharia - City of Coal Fires

Jharia and the neighbouring village of Bokapahari, in the state of Jharkhand, lie within one of India’s largest coal reserves. Coke coal is important for India’s economy as more than 70% of the country’s power supply is derived from coal. But for the 90,000 people living around Jharia, there is no benefit. Coal fires rage below the surface and noxious gases spew from fissures in and around houses. The incessant mining and the underground fire that has been burning for almost a century has contaminated everything – the soil, the water and the air. Sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons emitted by the burning coal have caused illnesses that range from stroke to chronic pulmonary disease. Nearly everybody in Jharia is ill. Occasionally the ground collapses, swallowing buildings and people into the chasm.

Coal can ignite spontaneously at rather low temperatures when exposed to certain conditions of temperature and oxygen. This may occur naturally or the combustion process may be triggered by other causes. In Jharai, a lot of mining is done illegally in open cast mines. Here coal is mined in right next to the houses, on the streets, on railway lines, and in the station itself. Ever since coal mines were nationalized in 1971, the villagers have been eking out a living pilfering coal they sell in the local market.

Conventionally after open cast mining, areas are refilled with sand and water so that the land can be cultivated again. This has never happened in Jharia, which lead to the coal seams coming into contact with oxygen and catching fire. Once a coal seam catches fire, and efforts to stop it an early stage fail, it may continue to burn for tens to hundreds of years, depending primarily on the availability of coal and oxygen. Jharia’s fires were first detected in 1916, and were caused primarily because of improperly decommissioned abandoned mines. Since then, a huge subterranean fire and more than 70 above ground fires have consumed about 41 million tons of coking coal, worth billions of dollars, not to mention the huge amount of greenhouse gases released to the air.

It is estimated that close to 1.5 billion tons of coal are inaccessible due to the fires burning. Jharia will continue to burn until effective fire prevention and extinguishment procedures are developed and employed or the coal burns itself out. But the government is nonchalant. Residents accuse the state coal company BCCL of letting the fires burn, hoping residents will leave so it can exploit the USD 12 billion worth of high-grade coking coal that sits below their land.

In 1996, the government undertook a massive relocation program to move all the residents of Jharia and surrounding fire-affected areas to Belgharia, a new settlement 8 km away. But Belgaria has no school, no medical care, no shops and no jobs. All they were promised were a measly Rs 10,000 (USD 167, in 2014 rates) in compensation and 250 days of work. No wonder, many decided to stay in Jharia despite the blazes, the smoke and the pollution.


Animals That are Older than Trees

According to Science Daily the earliest modern tree lived about 345-360 million years ago. Now extinct, Archaeopteris made up most of the forests across the Earth in the Late Devonian period. The findings were reported by three scientists in the 22 April 1999 issue of Nature (“Archaeopteris is the earliest known modern tree,” by Brigitte Meyer-Berthaud, Stephen E. Scheckler, and Jobst Wendt.)

Although trees are just a type of plant, and plants have been around much longer than 360 million years; it’s fascinating to think of animals still around today, that were on Earth before trees. Below you will find four such examples.


According to the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation and the ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research, sharks date back over 400-450 million years ago. In that time they have survived four global mass extinctions and diversified into over 470 species. Current well-known species such as the great white shark, tiger shark, blue shark, mako shark, and the hammerhead shark are apex predators—organisms at the top of their underwater food chain.


Half a billion years. That’s how long this animal has been around for. That’s more than double the time that the first dinosaurs roamed the Earth roughly 231.4 million years ago. Fossil records indicate that nautiluses have not evolved much during the last 500 million years and are often referred to as “living fossils“.

According to Peter Ward, a professor of biology, earth and space sciences at the University of Washington:
The nautilus may not seem as charismatic as tigers or elephants, but it holds a certain fascination. The spiral shells are divided into chambers, the biggest outermost one providing a home for the creatures and the empty ones providing an adjustable buoyancy system that allows the nautilus to move up and down after food. Not only is the nautilus a member of an ancient lineage, but individual creatures are long-lived. They may live upwards of 100 years.

Horseshoe Crabs

Also considered a living fossil, Horsehoe crabs date back 450 million years. According to Science Daily, in 2008 a team of Canadian scientists discovered Horsehoe crab fossils from 445 million year-old Ordovician age rocks in central and northern Manitoba. The marine arthropod lives primarily in and around shallow ocean water on soft sandy or muddy bottoms.

Like their counterparts above, these animals have managed to survive through several mass extinctions on Earth.


Another member of the ‘older than half a billion years’ club are jellies/jellyfish. They can be found in every ocean and are the oldest-known multi-organ animal on Earth. While the oldest fossil record was found in rocks more than 500 million years old, jellies are believed to be even older, upwards of 700 million years. Today these free-swimming marine animals have evolved into nearly 2000 different species.


The City That Lies in Two Continents

Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and the fifth-largest city in the world by population, is considered European, yet it occupies two different continents. One part of Istanbul lies in Europe and the other part lies in Asia. Istanbul’s European part is separated from its Asian part by the Bosphorus strait, a 31-km-long waterway that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, and forms a natural boundary between the two continents. Two suspension bridges across the Bosporus - the Bosporus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, also called Bosporus Bridge II, connect the two sides, yet many tourist prefer to visit the European side of Istanbul because of its historical significance. The European side is also the city’s commercial center with banks, stores and corporations and two-third of its population. The Asian side feels more relaxed, with wide boulevards, residential neighbourhoods and fewer hotels and tourist attractions.

Istanbul is one of the few cities in the world to be shared by two continents. Examples of other cities that are half European and half Asian include the Russian cities of Orenburg and Magnitogorsk, and Atyrau, a city in western Kazakhstan. Similarly, Suez, an Egyptian city straddling the Suez Canal, belong to both Africa and Asia. But Istanbul is by far the largest and the only metropolis in the world to do so.

Being the only water route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, the Bosporus has been the site of significant settlement and cities for a long time. In particular, the Golden Horn, an estuary that joins Bosphorus Strait at the immediate point where the strait meets the Sea of Marmara, and forms a large, sheltered harbour. It was here, on the European side of the Bosphorus, the city of Byzantium was founded by the ancient Greeks around 660 BCE, the city which later became Istanbul.

When Constantine the Great became the new Roman emperor, the city was renamed as Constantinople in 330 AD. For the next sixteen centuries, Constantinople served as the capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire, during which over 120 emperors and sultans ruled over this land. Istanbul was a Christian city during Roman and Byzantine times, before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the last caliphate. After the Turkish War of Independence, the modern Republic of Turkey was established in 1923, and although Ankara was chosen as its capital, the city did not lose its significance. Many palaces and imperial mosques still line Istanbul's hills as visible reminders of the city's previous central role. Today Istanbul is a huge metropolis connecting continents, cultures, and religions and being home to fifteen million people and one of the greatest business and cultural center of the region.

Aerial view of Bosphorus Bridge.


The Hanging Glacier of Queulat

Ventisquero Colgante, or the Hanging Glacier, is located in the Queulat National Park, in Chile, and is the park’s biggest attraction. Hanging above a ravine of bare rock, it dominates a valley formed by mountains covered in valdivian temperate rainforest, and feeds a river at the bottom of the valley as it melts. The water melting from the glacier creates two towering waterfalls as it drops 600 meters on top of a huge slab of angled bedrock, and then flows underneath what appears to be a permanent avalanche cone. As the stream leaves this underground section, it forms a small lake - Laguna Témpanos - and then after some 6 km enters the Canal de Puyuhuapi. The falls are visible and flowing all round the year but due to the ablation of avalanches at the base of the falls, as much as half of the falls can be covered by snow and ice during the late spring and early summer.

Ventisquero Colgante was discovered in 1875 during an exploration led by Captain Enrique Simpson. Captain reported that the snow of the glacier was just 100 meters from the bank of Canal de Puyuhuapi, where Captain used to moor his boat. It is not entirely clear whether he saw the waterfall and whether this waterfall was visible at all. In all likelihood, it wasn’t. The waterfalls was created much later, as the glacier retreated and the cliff wall became visible. If Captain’s observation is true, then the glacier has retreated 8 km during the last 140 years.


Photos of Mount Sinabung Volcanic Eruption

Among the eerie clouds and violent electrical storms, this extraordinary eruption shows Mother Earth at its scariest and most powerful. Photos show lightning caused by volcanic materials containing electric charges that collide into each other as Mount Sinabung erupts.

Sinabung is among 127 active volcanoes in Indonesia and has sporadically erupted since August 2010 after being dormant for 400 years. In the past four years the 8,530ft volcano located in Jeraya, North Sumatra, has killed at least two people and displaced 30,000 others. An eruption in February this year killed 16 people. More than 3,200 people are in 16 temporary shelters due to the recent eruptions.

Sinabung released hot clouds six times today, with its alert status at a level advising residents to be ready to flee if conditions worsen.

Indonesia is prone to seismic upheaval due to it being on the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin. But despite volcanoes being very hard to predict, it is difficult to keep farmers away because the mountain slopes are highly fertile.

Lightning caused by volcanic materials containing electric charges that collide into each other is seen as Mount Sinabung erupts

Mount Sinabung spews pyroclastic smoke, seen from Tiga Pancur village in Berastagi, Karo district, North Sumatra, Indonesia

Stunning view of volcanic eruptions of Mount Sinabung at Beganding village in Indonesia, which is on the Ring of Fire

An Indonesian man watches as Mount Sinabung - dormant for 400 years until 2010 - erupts in Tiga Kicat, North Sumatra, Indonesia

In this photo made with a slow shutter speed, Mount Sinabung spews hot lava and volcanic ash as seen from Jeraya, North Sumatra

Mount Sinabung, which had been dormant for over 400 years, has been intermittently erupting since September last year

A resident covers his face while walking after the latest eruption of Mount Sinabung in Karo District, North Sumatra, Indonesia

Mount Sinabung spews hot lava and volcanic ash as it is photographed from Tiga Pancur village in Indonesia

A resident uses an umbrella to avoid the thick volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Sinabung with lava blowing a giant black cloud

Kalem (right), cleans her temporary tent as their village is hit by ash from the eruption of Mount Sinabung in Berastagi, Karo district

Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province has been erupting since last week, forcing hundreds of people to flee their home

Mount Sinabung sprews hot gas and ash as seen from Tiga Pancur village in Karo, North Sumatra

According to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, more than 3,000 residents are still displaced from the eruption in September 2013

Indonesia is prone to seismic upheaval due to it being on the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines

A man cleans his car as his village is hit by ash from the eruption of Mount Sinabung in Berastagi, Karo district

Residents ride their motorcycles leaving their area as Mount Sinabung sprews hot gas and ashes at Guru Kinayan village in Karo

Residents stand on their fields as their village is hit by ash from the eruption of Mount Sinabung in Berastagi, Karo district

A giant black cloud of volcanic ash is seen following after the latest eruption of Mount Sinabung in Karo district

Kalem cleans her temporary tent as their village is hit by ash from the eruption of Mount Sinabung in Berastagi, Karo district

Despite volcanoes being notoriously hard to predict, it is difficult to keep farmers away because the mountain slopes are highly fertile