(CNN) – Not everyone is impressed that Turkmenistan’s most internationally recognized site is known as the “Gates of Hell”.
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov is said to have ordered the closure of the site, which is officially named Darvaza Crater after the town where it is located.
The crater formed in the early 1970s when the ground collapsed during a Soviet gas drilling expedition. Scientists reportedly set the huge hole on fire to prevent the spread of natural gas, and it has been burning ever since.
Although the crater has become a tourist attraction, Berdymukhamedov is said to have asked his cabinet to find a way to close the proverbial gates, according to the state newspaper Neytralny Turkmenistan.
Several reasons have been put forward for extinguishing the famous fire: negative effects on the health of people living nearby; the waste of precious natural gas resources; and environmental damage.
According to the newspaper, the deputy prime minister of Turkmenistan “was charged with bringing together scientists and, if necessary, attracting foreign consultants and finding a solution to extinguish the fire.”
Natural gas is one of the main sources of income for the Central Asian country.
At this time, there is no known deadline to close Darvaza Crater or put out the fire.
Tourism is still a relatively small industry in Turkmenistan. The number of annual foreign visitors before the pandemic was estimated at a few tens of thousands.
A new modern Ashgabat airport with a giant bird-shaped terminal opened in 2006. The project cost $ 2.3 billion and aimed to raise Turkmenistan’s international profile.
According to the annual ranking of press freedom in the world compiled by the Reporters Without Borders group, Turkmenistan ranks 178th out of 180 countries in the world for media censorship.
Image of Darvaza Crater by Giles Clarke / Getty Images