Jurassic era fossils turning to dust in Jharkhand

July 26th, 2008 - 10:13 am ICT by IANS  

By Nityanand Shukla
Rajmahal Hills (Jharkhand), July 26 (IANS) Nature’s treasure trove of fossils, some dating back to the Jurassic era and preserved for millions of years in Jharkhand’s Sahebganj district, is being steadily eroded by rampant mining, say scientists. Rajmahal Hills, about 500 km from state capital Ranchi, attract a number of geologists and palaeontologists for fossil research. However, this coal-rich region in eastern India is also the hub of mining activity.

Vijay Singh, a professor in the geology department of Ranchi University, said: “The plant fossils of the Rajmahal area are extremely rare. Flora and fauna got fossilised during volcanic eruptions millions of years ago when the Gondwana region consisting of present day Africa, Asia and Australia got fragmented.

“The fossils are being destroyed by mining and road construction activities. A mechanism should be worked out to preserve them,” Singh told IANS.

Major fossils of the Permian age (299-251 million years ago) like Glossopteris, Gangmopteris, Schizoneura, Vertebraria and Noeggerathiopsis are found in Jharkhand.

“The state also has Jurassic era (199.6-145.5 million years ago) fossils like Lycoxylon indicum, Cladophlebis lobata and Ptilophyllum aquitifolium,” said Nitish Priyadarshi, geologist and lecturer in the environment and water management department of Ranchi University.

“The fossils are being destroyed due to the negligence of the government. Reckless mining, stone crushing and road construction are threatening to wipe out the fossils. The areas where the relics are found should be identified and mining should be banned there.”

According to Priyadarshi, footprints similar to those of dinosaurs have also been found in the region.

When Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in November 2000, the state government had announced it would convert the region into a “Jurassic Park” to preserve the fossils. However, the plan is yet to be translated into reality.

Instead, the government has allowed various mining companies to run quarries in the area, have stone crushing units to make chips for use in building construction, and run road rollers over fossils to create way for trucks.

Primitive tribes are showing some initiative in preserving their natural habitat.

“We are trying to preserve our environment as scientists told us the fossils found here are rare and will be destroyed by mining,” Gangu Paharia of Tara village in the Rajmahal Hills told a visiting IANS correspondent.

The state government says it is aware of the importance of fossils and will take steps to conserve them.

“We will expedite the process of converting the area into a Jurassic Park. We will certainly do our best to preserve the fossils,” Deputy Chief Minister Stephen Marandi told IANS.

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