KARACHI, Sept 25: Following the emergence of an island on Tuesday off the coast of Gwadar, two others have emerged along the Balochistan coast, according to sources.
“The two new islands are located a few miles from Bidok and Bal, two villages along the coast of Ormara and Pasni. The information about the islands has been provided by local fishermen and tribal elders,” said Mohammad Moazzam Khan, a technical adviser to the World Wide Fund for Nature.
“The two new islands also seem to have been formed due to the earthquake that hit the province on Tuesday. Detailed information will be available tomorrow when our technical staff will visit the sites,” Mr Khan added.
Meanwhile, a team of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) visited on Wednesday the island which emerged off the Gwadar coast and found methane gas being emitted from various spots.
“The team has collected samples of rocks, water and sediment which will be analysed at the institute’s laboratory in Karachi. Another team will thoroughly examine the site in a few days,” said Dr Asif Inam of the NIO.
He put the island’s size at 50 metres long, 20m wide and 10m above the sea level.
The island, he said, was largely composed of mud and seemed to have emerged in a similar fashion as did Malan island in 2011. The new island was emitting pure methane that was used in households, he added.
NIO Director General Dr Ali Rashid Tabrez said Makran region was seismically an active zone and the coastal belt was reported to have extensive reserves of frozen methane.
“It’s common to see air bubbles at the surface of seawater along the coast. These bubbles are formed when gas is released on account of variation in sea temperature or any other change,” he said.
According to Dr Tabrez, the reserves of frozen methane exist in the form of gas hydrates (crystalline water-based solids physically resembling ice, formed under conditions of relatively high pressures and low temperatures) hundreds of metres below the sea floor.
“When this highly pressurised gas finds a weak space to release some of its energy, a dome-like structure (island) is created within the waters or it emerges on the sea surface. The space to release energy could be formed due to tectonic movements, creating some fractures and fissures in the strata,” he said.
The island, he said, might collapse as happened before (in case of Malan island) and vanish in a few months because of strong wave action and gradual easing out of gas pressure.
In reply to a question about exploiting gas hydrates for commercial use, he said there were few methods available for the purpose but research for a safe and cost-efficient technology was under way in many countries, including the US, Japan, Peru, Canada and India.
“Japan is excited over the discovery of gas hydrates in its territory in recent years and has carried out successful experiments. It is hoped that an environment-friendly technology will be available within a year or two to extract gas from these reserves,” he said.
He said Pakistan needed to carry out a survey of the reserves, adding that work on gas deposits had begun with the signing of an agreement with China this year.
According to AFP, enterprising boat owners were doing a brisk trade ferrying curious sightseers to the island — dubbed ‘Earthquake Mountain’ by local people.