Thursday, May 2, 2013

River on fire in Jharkhand State of India.


Fire is also coming out through hand-pumps.
By
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi







The haunting inscription that marks the gates of hell in Dante’s Inferno could well be true for coalfields located in Jharkhand in Eastern India. For, the underground fires that have been raging in the coalfields of these areas over several decades are now beginning to engulf its thickly inhabited areas as well.

Earlier it was Jharia town now the new areas are under threat. Recently two major incidents took place near Bokaro and Dhanbad town where underground fire erupted on the surface. One was through hand-pump and other was in middle of a local river near Dhanbad.

Jharkhand has been the home to some bizarre happenings in the recent days. The most freaky and interesting in recent days is the Katri River water which has been bubbling with fire, literally!

Panic gripped in Katras area near Dhanbad when fire erupted in middle of the Katri river. It was first case of such eruption in river. Some local kids spotted fire arising from within the water and boiling it from under causing violent ripples in the place. The fire was only just over a foot tall and hence was not dangerous yet. Alarmed adults reached the spot.

It is all due to either underground mine fire which is now slowly engulfing the entire area or due to Coal Bed Methane gas (CBM) which is gushing out on the surface in many pockets of the affected areas. Entire area is rich in CBM gas.

Methane (CH4) is a gas formed as part of the process of coal formation – coalification. When coal is mined methane is released from the coal seam and the surrounding disturbed rock strata. Methane can also be released as a result of natural erosion or faulting or due to deep boring to trap groundwater or mine blasting. In Bokaro and Dhanbad area deep borings are going on recklessly for groundwater exploitation. These has resulted rock fractures helping methane gas trapped beneath to escape to the atmosphere through such fractures and resulting in surface fire.

Methane is highly combustible – its release can have serious implications for the safety of mine operations. It is also a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) – 23 times more harmful than carbon dioxide (CO2).

Methane is released during the process of extracting coal in both surface and underground mining. The released methane then mixes with air, which becomes highly explosive if methane concentration levels reach 5-15%. Methane explosions are devastating, causing significant loss of life and damage to property.

Such is the intensity of the fires that even a mid-summer sun pales in the smoky haze that they generate. After dusk, the flames take on morbid hues. “Total area including Jharia town resembles a cremation ground at night”. 

Causes of Coal Fires:
Coal fires are a natural occurrence and as widespread as forest fires. Besides the blaze in Jharkhand’s coalfield areas, the coal fire of Indonesia is regarded as the wildest on the earth.
An organic and highly carbonaceous material, coal-when exposed to moisture and oxygen- tends to catch fire immediately. Coal absorbs oxygen at all temperatures with slight rise in temperature. If ventilation is not adequate to take away the heat thus formed, more oxygen will be absorbed, and more will be the rise in temperature. This process continues till it catches fire. Reaction rate is doubled for every 10 degree rise in temperature. This phenomenon of spontaneous combustion is the main natural cause of coal fires. Lightning, forest fires or frictional heat generated during churning inside the Earth’s crust can also ignite coal fires. Regarding Jharkahd research says that no single reason can be attributed to the fire. Coals of the this area are not very prone to auto-oxidation. 



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