Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Land splitting creates panic in Uttar Pradesh State of India- Groundwater depletion is not the only cause.

Jharkhand and Bihar may face such phenomenon.

Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Several wide cracks on the earth has developed in different parts of Uttar Pradesh state of India. Areas covered are Hamirpur, Jalaun, Orai, Rai Barelly, Allahabad, and Kanpur. Reports are also coming from the neighbouring states where people are scared of this phenomenon.

This year on April 16 small quantities of molten rock erupted near a habitation at Sandhwa near Indore city of Madhya Pradesh state, leaving neighbours awestruck. Locals said that the eruption began with a small explosion causing two-feet wide gap in the soil.

With incidents of land splitting reported from various parts of North India, many people are asking : is doomsday at hand?

According to a saying in Hindu religion “land splitting is not a good sign. Incidents of land splitting are accompanied with deaths, mayhem and pogroms”.

Releasing a fear psychosis is building up among the villagers where incidents of land splitting have been reported in the recent past, the state government is now on an over drive to dispel the fear by giving a scientific angle to the whole process.
According to the experts, the cracks developed due to steep fall in the groundwater level. Decline in the groundwater level meant the space under the surface was now occupied by gases, which often could support the weight of the layers above. Different layers of the earth tend to move as a result, leading to cracks on the surface. Geologists say that due to the groundwater scarcity, soil was not able to bind the water molecules. As a result, the earth’s crust in various districts was developing cracks.

Land subsidence is a natural geological occurrence; however, it has been greatly accelerated by humans through excessive groundwater pumping. Generally speaking, land subsidence occurs at accelerated rates when water is pumped from an aquifer faster than it is replenished; it can also occur due to oil pumping and mining operations.

When a fissure reaches the surface, it is generally as a hairline crack, often less than an inch wide. It is after a rainstorm that the real problems emerge: As surface water flows into a fissure, it quickly expands into a giant crevasse, which could grow large enough to swallow a house. It is a process that can happen quite rapidly.

With continued groundwater depletion, we will continue to see new fissures forming," "and we cannot be sure exactly where they will form. Furthermore, it is unclear how many fissures may have already formed that have yet to surface. Even if we were able to recharge the aquifers, it could take decades, perhaps longer, before we stopped seeing new fissures."

Such fissures are called blind fissures, because they are not visible until they surface.
If we believe that groundwater depletion is the only phenomenon behind land subsidence then the states like Jharkhand, Bihar etc. should now be on high alert where the groundwater pumping is high.

But seeing the cases of land splitting in big scale in Uttar Pradesh and its adjoining States, only groundwater depletion is behind such phenomenon doesn’t seems true. Groundwater depletion may play important role, but it is not the only cause behind the splitting of lands. Fissures often make their first appearance as a narrow crack in the surface which was not reported from these places earlier.

If it has been true then most parts of the states of North India especially Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh etc. must have developed cracks on the earth, which fortunately is not here, neither it was reported earlier in the past.

Jharkhand State which faces acute groundwater shortage during summer season never faced such phenomenon of land splitting.

The scientists also pointed out that the areas where cracks in the earth’s crust have appeared were closer to the rivers and have sandy soil. Rampant mining of sand could also be a reason for the cracks. This theory also doesn’t satisfy because if rampant mining is one of the cause then cracks would have covered almost all parts of the India where river sand mining for construction purpose is very common.

There are difference in opinion. According to US based geologist, land breaches reported in the Indo-Gangetic belt could be due to the motion of a massive granite body underneath. Other geologists say there are two massive underground rock mountains for many kilometers along the banks of the Ganga river which are striking against each other and which might prove dangerous.

From last two years the most stable zone of Jharkhand is experiencing mild tremors in frequent interval which is not normal. We just can not jump into any conclusion by only experiencing such tremors but it is also true that something unusual is happening beneath the earth crust.

Does this fissures is something to do with movements of Indian subcontinent towards Eurasia?

What ever may be the causes but it is clear that in future we are going to see more of such types of land depletion.
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