Monday, July 28, 2008

Jharkhand fossils of India on the verge of extinction.

This are some of the Plant fossils and other fossil of the Jharkhand which are on the verge of extinction due to mining and other man made operations.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

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.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Land splitting creates panic in Uttar Pradesh State of India- Groundwater depletion is not the only cause.

Jharkhand and Bihar may face such phenomenon.

Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

Several wide cracks on the earth has developed in different parts of Uttar Pradesh state of India. Areas covered are Hamirpur, Jalaun, Orai, Rai Barelly, Allahabad, and Kanpur. Reports are also coming from the neighbouring states where people are scared of this phenomenon.

This year on April 16 small quantities of molten rock erupted near a habitation at Sandhwa near Indore city of Madhya Pradesh state, leaving neighbours awestruck. Locals said that the eruption began with a small explosion causing two-feet wide gap in the soil.

With incidents of land splitting reported from various parts of North India, many people are asking : is doomsday at hand?

According to a saying in Hindu religion “land splitting is not a good sign. Incidents of land splitting are accompanied with deaths, mayhem and pogroms”.

Releasing a fear psychosis is building up among the villagers where incidents of land splitting have been reported in the recent past, the state government is now on an over drive to dispel the fear by giving a scientific angle to the whole process.
According to the experts, the cracks developed due to steep fall in the groundwater level. Decline in the groundwater level meant the space under the surface was now occupied by gases, which often could support the weight of the layers above. Different layers of the earth tend to move as a result, leading to cracks on the surface. Geologists say that due to the groundwater scarcity, soil was not able to bind the water molecules. As a result, the earth’s crust in various districts was developing cracks.

Land subsidence is a natural geological occurrence; however, it has been greatly accelerated by humans through excessive groundwater pumping. Generally speaking, land subsidence occurs at accelerated rates when water is pumped from an aquifer faster than it is replenished; it can also occur due to oil pumping and mining operations.

When a fissure reaches the surface, it is generally as a hairline crack, often less than an inch wide. It is after a rainstorm that the real problems emerge: As surface water flows into a fissure, it quickly expands into a giant crevasse, which could grow large enough to swallow a house. It is a process that can happen quite rapidly.

With continued groundwater depletion, we will continue to see new fissures forming," "and we cannot be sure exactly where they will form. Furthermore, it is unclear how many fissures may have already formed that have yet to surface. Even if we were able to recharge the aquifers, it could take decades, perhaps longer, before we stopped seeing new fissures."

Such fissures are called blind fissures, because they are not visible until they surface.
If we believe that groundwater depletion is the only phenomenon behind land subsidence then the states like Jharkhand, Bihar etc. should now be on high alert where the groundwater pumping is high.

But seeing the cases of land splitting in big scale in Uttar Pradesh and its adjoining States, only groundwater depletion is behind such phenomenon doesn’t seems true. Groundwater depletion may play important role, but it is not the only cause behind the splitting of lands. Fissures often make their first appearance as a narrow crack in the surface which was not reported from these places earlier.

If it has been true then most parts of the states of North India especially Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh etc. must have developed cracks on the earth, which fortunately is not here, neither it was reported earlier in the past.

Jharkhand State which faces acute groundwater shortage during summer season never faced such phenomenon of land splitting.

The scientists also pointed out that the areas where cracks in the earth’s crust have appeared were closer to the rivers and have sandy soil. Rampant mining of sand could also be a reason for the cracks. This theory also doesn’t satisfy because if rampant mining is one of the cause then cracks would have covered almost all parts of the India where river sand mining for construction purpose is very common.

There are difference in opinion. According to US based geologist, land breaches reported in the Indo-Gangetic belt could be due to the motion of a massive granite body underneath. Other geologists say there are two massive underground rock mountains for many kilometers along the banks of the Ganga river which are striking against each other and which might prove dangerous.

From last two years the most stable zone of Jharkhand is experiencing mild tremors in frequent interval which is not normal. We just can not jump into any conclusion by only experiencing such tremors but it is also true that something unusual is happening beneath the earth crust.

Does this fissures is something to do with movements of Indian subcontinent towards Eurasia?

What ever may be the causes but it is clear that in future we are going to see more of such types of land depletion.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Giant Lizard found near Ranchi city of Jharkhand State.

Giant Lizard found near Ranchi city of Jharkhand State of India.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi
Recently a giant lizard was caught by the villagers some 30 kilometers from the Ranchi city of Jharkhand State. Such types of lizards are very rare in Jharkhand. Till now only two or three cases have reported from the state. This lizard very much resembles to Komodo Dragon commonly found in Indonesia. The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is a species of lizard that inhabits the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang, and Gili Dasami, in central Indonesia. A member of the monitor lizard family (Varanidae), it is the largest living species of lizard, growing to an average length of 2–3 meters (approximately 6.5–10 ft) and weighing around 70 kilograms (154 lb). Their unusual size is attributed to island gigantism, since there are no other carnivorous animals to fill the niche on the islands where they live, and also to the Komodo dragon's low metabolic rate. As a result of their size, these lizards are apex predators, dominating the ecosystems in which they live. Although Komodo dragons eat mostly carrion, they will also hunt and ambush prey including invertebrates, birds, and mammals. There are only an estimated 1,000 to 5,000 of these monitor lizards living today.
The evolutionary development of the Komodo dragon started with the Varanus genus, which originated in Asia about 40 million years ago and migrated to Australia. Around 15 million years ago, a collision between Australia and Southeast Asia allowed the Varanids to move into what is now the Indonesian archipelago. The Komodo dragon is believed to have differentiated from its Australian ancestors 4 million years ago, extending their range to as far east as the island of Timor. The Ice Age and its dramatic sea level changes brought the islands that the Komodo dragons inhabited into their present locations, isolating them in their present range.
The Komodo dragon prefers hot and dry places, and typically lives in dry open grassland, savanna, and tropical forest at low elevations. As an ectotherm, it is most active in the day, although it exhibits some nocturnal activity.
Komodo dragons also possess virulent bacteria in their saliva, of which more than 28 Gram-negative and 29 Gram-positive strains have been isolated. These bacteria cause septicemia in their victim; if an initial bite does not kill the prey animal and it escapes, it will commonly succumb within a week to the resulting infection.
As it is their Mating season which occurs between May and August, it has been found in the village. From several days it is heavily raining in Jharkhand State which may have forced this reptile to enter the village for search of food and shelter.
Four feet long reptile appears to be a baby lizard. It was held in captivity for one month.
The villagers have fed this carnivorous lizard chicks, apart from several frogs and eggs.
Now it has been handed over to the forest department to be housed in Zoological park near Ranchi city where it will be the second of its kind.