24th September dawned as another tragic day for Pakistan as the country was jolted with a massive Earthquake with 7.7 magnitude, killing hundreds of people in the coastal regions and grounding many mud houses in the remote inaccessible areas.
Soon enough the reports started coming in of the emergence of a new island a few kilometers off the coast, spotted by the local fishermen.
About 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 meters) high, up to 300 feet (91 meters) wide, and up to 120 feet (37 meters) long, the island shot up within no time bringing up several species of fish and octopus along with it. The island is predominantly made up of mud but a few rocks can also be seen. Many of the oceanographers and scientists regarded the emergence as a catastrophe for the marine environment of the region as the island continues to release flammable gases, possibly Methane, killing the marine life in several meters within the sea.
“The seabed near the Makran coast has vast deposits of gas hydrates, or frozen gas having large methane content.” Said Rashid Tabrez, the director-general of the Karachi-based National Institute of Oceanography. “These deposits lay compressed under a sediment bed that is 300m-800m thick. When the plates along the fault-lines move, they create heat and the expanding gas blasts through the fissures in the earth’s crust, propelling the entire sea floor to the surface.”
But not everyone has the same point of view regarding the notoriety of the new land. Bill Barnhart, a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey remains skeptical about the stability of the island and remains adamant that the island will disappear within a few months as is one of the most probable features of the mud island all over the world.
“It’s a transient feature.”It will probably be gone within a couple of months. It’s just a big pile of mud that was on the seafloor that got pushed up.” Said Barnhart. He also rejected the notion that the flammable gases can be Methane Hydrates as they are found much deeper off shore.
For the moment, defying all scientific presumptions, the island is standing tall and will gradually slide into a regular feature of the shore line along the Makran, Gwadar coasts. The toxic emissions will also cease as the ocean currents and decreasing pressures of the gas sources will gradually shut off the emissions and the island turn into a promising home of a diversified aquatic life.
South Asian seas are home to almost 34% of the total Coral Reef area in the world. Presence of Coral reefs in Pakistan’s Coastal region was discovered only recently in 2006 during a survey conducted with the collaboration of Pakistan Wetlands Programme and Millport University UK, around Astola Island. The survey identified 17 hard and soft species of Corals and 25 species of organisms which excrete Limestone, major constituent of Coral Reefs.
Coral Reefs play a decisive role in maintaining equilibrium in the aquatic ecosystem of seas and oceans. They provide spawning, nursery, refuge and feeding areas for a large variety of organisms, including economically important crustaceans (e.g. shrimps, spiny lobsters and crabs) and cephalopods (e.g. octopus, squids and cuttlefish) and thus providing revenue for local communities as well as national fishing fleets.
If properly managed, reefs can yield around 15 tons of fish and other seafood per square kilometer each year. The newly formed island will play an important role in providing promising ground for nurturing Coral Reefs along the seas shore of Pakistan.