Analysis Of Down To Earth Magazine: ”India’s Geologically Important Sites are Under Threat”
”GS 1 & GS 3: Conservation”
- India is fast losing its geologically critical sites to developmental activities.
- India has at least 53 sites of geological importance across the Himalayas(Jammu Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh) only, most of which are under threat or have been damaged due to developmental activities.
What are Geological Heritage Sites?
- They are educational spaces where people find themselves acquiring badly needed geological literacy.
- Like social diversity, India’s geodiversity, or a variety of the geological and physical elements of nature, is unique.
- India has tall mountains, deep valleys, sculpted landforms, long-winding coastlines, hot mineral springs, active volcanoes, diverse soil types, mineralised areas, and globally important fossil-bearing sites.
- It is long known as the world’s ‘natural laboratory’ for geoscientific learning.
- So, preserving geological heritage is as important as preserving biodiversity and cultural heritage
What kind of geological features does India have?
- The geological features and landscapes that evolved over billions of years through numerous cycles of tectonic and climate upheavals are recorded in India’s rock formations and terrains, and are part of the country’s heritage.
- For example, the Kutch region in Gujarat has dinosaur fossils and is our version of a Jurassic Park.
- The Tiruchirappalli region of Tamil Nadu, originally a Mesozoic Ocean, is a storehouse of Cretaceous (60 million years ago) marine fossils.
Importance Of Critical Geological Sites
- They provide invaluable data on past climates, tectonic movements, floral and faunal diversity, and even earthquakes.
- Only by studying fossils have we come to know that the Indian summer monsoon started 25 million years ago and a full-fledged monsoon just 10-15 million years ago.
- Each type — deciduous, temperate or rainforest—has unique morphological features. For example, rainforest trees have an extended leaf top to drain out extra rain.
- Ancient data could help in understanding future climatic conditions.
- The current carbon dioxide concentration has surpassed the 400 parts per million (ppm) mark.
- Average temperatures have also risen by 1 degree C since the preindustrial era. These conditions make predicting rainfall a challenge. But prediction models can be made accurate if one has data on how rainfall changed when carbon dioxide and temperatures were high.
- Similarly, if we have data on how monsoons changed, the current prediction becomes more precise.
- The protection of geo-heritage sites requires legislation.
- The Biological Diversity Act was implemented in 2002 and now there are 18 notified biosphere reserves in India.
- Geo-conservation should be a major guiding factor in land-use planning.
- A progressive legal framework is needed to support such strategies.
The government should set up a committee involving GSI, state geological departments and research universities to guide road construction. A law to protect geo-heritage sites should also be made. Just as there is a law to protect archaeological sites, we should have one for geo-heritage sites too.