Protecting Geo-Heritage Sites→ India’s natural laboratories [ GS III ]

INTRODUCTION:  India’s Geo-diversity, or variety of the geological and physical elements of nature, is unique and very diverse. India has mountain ranges,gorges and valleys,different landforms, long-stretched coastlines, volcanoes, various soil types, areas having different minerals and resources, and some important fossil-bearing sites globally. India can be very useful for geo-scientific learning

BACKGROUND-

A supercontinent Pangea was broken into laurasia and Gondwana, India formed out of Gondwana. India then drifted northwards due to Plate-Tectonics Theory.

The geological features and landscapes that evolved over billions of years through numerous cycles of tectonic and climate disruptions are recorded in India’s rock formations and terrains, and are ultimately part of the country’s heritage.

FOR EXAMPLE-

  1. The Kutch region(Gujarat) has dinosaur fossils and so it resembles India’s version of  Jurassic Park. 

  2. The Tiruchirappalli region(Tamil Nadu), is a storehouse of Cretaceous period marine fossils.

  3. The environmental history of the Indus River Valley has to be studied in order to understand how physical geography gets transformed into a cultural unit.

GEO-HERITAGE SITES-

  •  These sites are educational spaces where people find geological literacy. 

  • In comparison to subjects like physics, biology, and chemistry, the disciplines like environmental science and geology are not taught and studied that way. As there is uncertainty in the future climate, hence decision-making is bit difficult.

  •  Learning from the geological past may serve as an analogue for future climate.

  •  The awareness accrued through educational activities in geo-heritage parks will make it easy for us to memorise past events of climate change and appreciate the adaptation measures to be followed for survival.

  • These Geo-heritage sites promote geo-tourism that generates revenue and employment.

Preserving geological heritage is also very important like safeguarding the biodiversity and cultural heritage.

EFFORTS BY UNESCO:

  • The importance of the shared geological heritage of Earth was first recognised in 1991 at an UNESCO-sponsored event, ‘First International Symposium on the Conservation of our Geological Heritage’. In this Event, the delegations from Digne, and France, assembled. 

  • The Man and the Earth share a common heritage, of which “we and our government is the custodian” declaration predict the establishment of geo-parks as sites that celebrate unique geological features and landscapes thus educate the public on geological importance. 

  • In the late 1990s, as a continuation of the Digne resolution, UNESCO facilitated efforts to create a formal programme promoting a global network of geoheritage sites, to complement the World Heritage Convention and the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere programme(MAB). 

  • UNESCO provided guidelines for developing national geo-parks to make them a part of the Global Geoparks Network, currently 169 Global Geoparks across 44 countries.

Unfortunately, India does not have any such legislation and policy for conservation unlike Vietnam and Thailand. The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has identified 32 sites as National Geological Monuments.

 There is not a single geo-park in India which is recognised by the UNESCO, even when India is a signatory to the UNESCO Global Geoparks establishment .

 The development campaign agenda-

In India, Many fossil-bearing sites have been destroyed in the name of development. The development juggernaut may soon overwhelm almost all our sites of geo-heritage:

For example-

  •  The Tiruchirappalli region (Tamil Nadu), a storehouse of Cretaceous marine fossils.

  • The Kutch region in Gujarat has dinosaur fossils and is our version of a Jurassic Park. 

  • A National geological monument exhibiting a unique rock called Nepheline Syenite in Ajmer district of Rajasthan was destroyed in a road-widening project. 

  • The Lonar impact crater in Buldhana district(Maharashtra) is an important geo-heritage site of international significance (under threat of destruction)

India is moving towards the disappearance of most of its geological heritage sites due to factors like: 

  •  unplanned and booming real estate business

  •  Unregulated stone mining activities 

Natural assets, if destroyed, can’t be recreated similarly they lose much of their scientific value, if uprooted.

The protection of geo-heritage sites requires some strong and immediate legislation. The Biological Diversity Act was implemented in 2002 and now there are 18 notified biosphere reserves in India.

TO CONCLUDE: Geo-conservation should be a major guiding factor in land-use planning. A progressive legal framework is needed to support such strategies. In 2009, a National Commission for Heritage Sites was constituted, through a bill introduced in the Rajya Sabha later the government backtracked and the bill was withdrawn. The Government has to sympathise with these issues and take some strong action in order to save these geological heritage sites and hence the culture. Therefore the Govt. has to take some necessary steps in this direction.

plutus ias daily current affairs 12 Oct 2021

Rajeev Yadav

Plutus IAS Current Affairs Team Member

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