An 8000 km Long African Man-Made Forest

By Anupum Pant

The only desert larger than Sahara is a whole continent which is a desert – Antarctica. But Antarctica, unlike Africa’s desert, isn’t becoming bigger every year. It’s only the Sahara among these two which grows as time passes.

So, the expanding Sahara desert poses a great problem for the future generations of the southern nations (Sahel region) towards which it comes creeping. At least the ones just south of the Sahara desert, as the UN suggests, must be ready to face a hard life in the future.

Unless, an extremely ambitious and selfless plan being pushed for the good life of future generations, by a group of eleven African nations becomes a success.

The eleven nations across the African continent which stand to face the peril with a solid plan in place are Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

They have all come together and decided to create a massive Great Green Wall of Africa – a 15 km (9 miles) wide wall of man-made forest home to millions of drought resistant trees, stretching across the continent for about 8000 km (~5000 miles)! If complete, this is what it will look like.

The great green wall of africa

Since 2008, after spending about 6 million dollars, the enterprising leaders of Senegal, were able to finish a 330 mile long man-made forest. However in other nations where “short-termism” (to feed the present families) has taken priority over long-term good (of the future generations), the project faces a problem. Other problems like rebel groups, drought and famine doesn’t let this happen very easily.

The world bank has pledged 2 billion dollars for this massive project. If this great African dream does succeed, it will carry a huge lesson for all humans across the world to learn.

I earnestly hope it does succeed.

via [AtlasObscura]

Killer Lakes – A Very Weird Natural Disaster

By Anupum Pant

In the Northwest Cameroon (Africa) there’s a lake which is commonly  known among the locals as “The Bad Lake”. The official name of this lake however is, lake Nyos. This is one of those three or four special lakes in the world which are mostly know for their mass killings. The locals living near the lake Nyos in particular have a very grim story to tell from the past.

The Story

A seemingly innocuous landslide occurred on August 21st, 1986. This created a mini tsunami and sent red water (due to iron) flying 300 feet in the air. There was nothing really dangerous about the flying water. But, as a result if this landslide, it is believed that about 1.2 cubic kilometres of carbon dioxide from the lake Nyos got released. The trigger could have been something else, but the gas that got released was carbon dioxide for sure.

This rare kind of a natural disaster is known as a Limnic Eruption or Lake overturn. There are just 2 other lakes known where scientists think this can happen – Lake Monoun, Cameroon, and Lake Kivu of Congo

The huge amount of CO2, being heavier than air, spread into the nearby low-lying villages in a range of 25 km. People had nowhere to escape and nearly everyone died. Only a few hundreds who acted quick, and escaped to higher ground on vehicles could save themselves. That day, 1,700 people and 3,600 livestock got suffocated to death.

Why it Happened

volcanoLake Nyos like only a few other lakes in the world was formed about 400 years ago on a huge crater. Far below the lake there’s magma and it spews CO2 continuously into the lake, forming huge amounts of carbonated water (a good thing for Coke lovers). The CO2 doesn’t usually release in a single go all the time. It happens gradually, and the pipes now installed to fix this keep releasing CO2 all the time (The pressure of gas also carries water along to form a beautiful fountain).

Sometimes however, due to some triggers, the CO2 can get released in a single go and cause the absurd natural disaster which ends up killing thousands.

The Lake Kivu which is in Congo probably holds a much worse headline for the future. This one is about a 1000 times larger than lake Nyos and is surrounded by heavily populated towns. There’s magma below it too and any sort of disruption could cause massive amounts of carbon dioxide to release into the nearby towns. To add to the fears, researchers have found that the massive lake Kivu’s life goes extinct every 1000 years. We can only wait and watch what happens…

Tiger Fish Jumps Out of Water and Catches Flying Birds

By Anupum Pant

It is normal for birds to swoop down and catch fish from water. But, since 1940s, stories about a meter-long-demonic-African-fish leaping out of water to catch birds in mid-air have been told. They were only stories; no one had seen the actual occurrence…Until now.

Recently, a video of it happening was captured by a team of researchers from North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa, and was posted on YouTube. As expected, the video went viral. Who wouldn’t love watching a fish-eating a bird! I put it on repeat and must have watched it 10 times already.

In the video you see a Tiger fish (Hydrocynus vittatus – literally means a ‘spotted water dog’) that lives in African fresh waters. It is one of the largest predators there and lives with a larger cousin, the Giant Tiger fish (Hydrocynus goliath). The Tiger fish can measure as much as 1 meter in length. On the other hand, giant tiger fish (not seen here) can reach up to 1.5 meters in length.

Taking shots around the South African lake in the Mapungubwe National Park, they were not really expecting to record a video in which a fish would fly out of the water and catch a swallow. Rather they were there to study migration and habitat at the lake. The team was surprised to see this. The director said:

“The whole action of jumping and catching the swallow in flight happens so incredibly quickly that after we first saw it, it took all of us a while to really fully comprehend what we had just seen.”

Given that a fish in water, or even human beings for that matter, cannot see beyond a specific window (The Underwater Optical Man-hole), this fish does an amazing job of tracking and striking a bird in mid-flight with so much precision. Cheers for that Mr. Tiger Fish.

Agreed the video isn’t clear, but it the first of its kind. Soon, I hope, we’ll see HD, NatGeo quality videos. Watch it on video here: [Video]