Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mining and other operations destroying fossils of Jharkhand State of India.

Mining and other operations destroying fossils of Jharkhand State of India.

Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Large scale mining and other operations in Jharkhand State of India are destroying the plant fossils of the Jurassic and Permian age. Lack of proper preservation arrangements, coupled with reckless mining works are ruining “a veritable storehouse of geological history”. Fossils of Jurassic age in Rajmahal area of Jharkhand state are being used to build up roads. Due to lack of knowledge, awareness and government ignorance these fossils are dangerously set on the path to destruction.
Plant fossils of Permian age which are spread over Damodar Valley coalfields are also being destroyed due to mine blasting or crushed under the huge tyres of trucks.

The situation is a combination of factors including extensive mine blasting and natural weathering process whose ‘baleful impact upon the life of the plant fossils has not been minimized due to the indifference of the organization concerned.

“There is an urgent need to conserve the rich fossil site. It is essential to preserve the plant fossils in ancient conditions,”.

According to the recent report a Memorandum of Understanding was inked between the Jharkhand government, Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany (BSIP), Lucknow, and the National Building Construction Corporation, (NBCC), under the umbrella of the Department of Science and Technology of Government of India to establish the park. The Lucknow-based BSIP, a premier research centre in the field of palaeobotany, will provide scientific inputs and consultancy services to the park. But what about the fossils of Damodar Valley Coalfields? Decision of making fossil park has come too late. Till today most of the fossils have been destroyed .

Major plant fossils of the Permian age in Jharkhand State are Glossopteris, Gangmopteris, Schizoneura, Vertebraria, Noeggerathiopsis etc. Jurassic fossils are Lycoxylon indicum, Cladophlebis lobata, Ptilophyllum aquitifolium etc.

An angiosperm fruit of uncertain affinity and a questionable flower are reported from the Rajmahal Formation (Early Cretaceous) at the locality of Sonajori, Rajmahal Basin. The remains of ferns, Pentoxylales and conifers have been described previously from this locality. The significant addition of angiosperm megafossil remains confirms that flowering plants were evolving during the Early Cretaceous Epoch in India. The Sonajori assemblage seems to be the youngest fossil assemblage recovered so far from the Rajmahal Basin. It is tentatively dated as Barremian–Aptian.

Mr. Birbal Sahni was the first botanist to study extensively the flora of Indian Gondwana. He also explored the Rajmahal hills which is a treasury of fossils of ancient plants. Here he discovered some new genus of plants. The important and interesting ones are Homoxylon rajmehalense, Rajamahalia paradora and Williamsonia sewardiana.

Stromatolites in Jharkhand:
Stromatolites have the distinction of being by far the oldest indicators of organized life on earth, ranging back over 3 billion years. They occur all on continents in rocks from middle Precambrian to Holocene age. Stromatolites are laminated limestone structure of simple to complex form commonly attributed to debris-binding and biochemical processes of benthonic blue-green, green, and possibly, red algae.
Iron ore groups (Archaean age) of Jharkhand and bordering Orissa need pointed reference as they have the potential to constrain concepts of early evolution of life and also the age of the Iron Ore Group. These relate to the occurrence of palaeobiological remains and the extensive development of carbon phyllites that may have an organic carbon source.
These are found in the chert, jasper, haematite and dolomite beds in the iron-ore formations of the Noamundi-Joda area of Orissa bordering Jharkhand State. Good exposures of stromatolytic dolomite are also found at the base of the iron and manganese formations at Kasia and Belkundi. The stromatolites may be of the stratiform, nodular and columnar types.
Stromatolites have also been recorded Bachra coalfield in North Karanpura coalfield of Jharkhand state. It has been found in Talchir Formation (Permo-Carboniferous). The rock types of Talchir formation in order of superposition comprise tilloides and boulder beds, green shales and varvites with stromatolites. Stromatolites have been recorded by CMPDIL organization for the first time in this area.
They were the dominant life form on Earth for over 2 billion years. Today they are nearly extinct, living a precarious existence in only a few localities.

The term fossil is defined as remains of plants and animals which have existed on the earth in prehistoric times and are found preserved within sedimentary rocks or superficial deposits of the earth, not only mostly as petrified structures of organisms but also whatever was directly connected with or produced by these organisms.

Fossils are recognized as important useful tools since prehistoric times. Prehistoric men and medicine men of certain primitive cultures have believed them as magic sticks with mysterious powers and have used them to treat the evil spirits. Students concerned with the past of the earth have used as guide to reconstruct the geologic history of the earth. Paleontologists have used them in reconstructing the story of the plants and animals and of the past. They have also obtained useful information about when, where, and how the fossil animals and plants lived. Economic geologists have used the fossils as chief indicators in oil exploration.

Most of our knowledge about the climatic conditions in the geologic past comes from the study of the fossils. The presence of a fossils of warmer region in colder parts indicate that the latter once enjoyed a warm climate. The fossil ferns and other plants are usually found associated with coal deposits, which suggest warm and swampy conditions.

The concerned organizations should wake up to the bitter fact of gradual elimination of plant fossils from this region before it is too late.

“This is not to say that mining operations or other construction works in these regions should be stopped but they should be done more judiciously apart from setting up a chain of geological parks in Jharkhand to preserve plant fossils which are indisputably a treasure trove of information about the chronological history of the rocks.

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