Sunday, 10 May 2009

When stones speak history: GSI lists exotic geological monuments

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The exotic geological monuments that dot the country giving a peep into the prehistoric past will now bustle with international tourists thanks to a grand plan to resurrect these natural structures.
The Geological Survey of India has now drawn up an ambitious plan to develop natural rock and other formations into attractive tourist spots. India has several imprints of varied geological processes through ages and is a storehouse of interesting geological features.
To tap these geological formations into international tourist destinations, the GSI has declared some of these natural locales as national geological monuments. The tourists visiting these places will have an insight in the real past like the formation of the subcontinent, the orogeny (mountain formation), the palaeoenvironment and the exotic collection of paleoflora and paleofauna.
According to GSI sources, one of the the geo-tourism destination identified by GSI is the "Natural Arch" near Tirupati, a unique geological marvel in the country. The arch, measuring eight metres in width and three metres in height, has been curved out of quartzite of Cuddapah Supergroup of Middle to Upper Proterozoic (1600 to 570 million aeons) by collective action of weathering agents like water and wind over a long period of several thousands of years.
Natural arches of this kind are a rarity. The Rainbow Arch of Utah in the USA and the one in the Dalradian Quartzite are the other examples.
Even the serene Tirumala Hills are of geo-tourism destination because of their "Eparchaean Unconformity" (precambrian era), which separates the proterozoic Nagari quartzite from the oldest archaean granite representing a time gap of over 800 million aeons. "The unconformity is supposed to be a period of remarkable quiescence without much structural disturbance and igneous activity in the history of earth," GSI sources point out.
The Kadapa district has one of the largest baryte deposits of the world and is considered to have formed through precipitation from volcanic vapours under submarine conditions and sub aerial showering of ash and molten baryte lapilli (volcanic hail). The deposit occurs in the Pullampet Formation of the Nallamalai Group of the Cuddapah Supergroup. The lower beds of Mangampeta Barytes are of the highest grade and often occur as pure barium sulphate.
Other geological sites selected by the GSI are Marine Gondwana Fossil Park at Manendragarh in Chattisgarh, Akal Fossil Wood Park in Jaisalmer of Rajastan, National Fossil Wood Park in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu, Siwalik Fossil Park in Sirmur district of Himachal Pradesh, Stromatolite Park (structures produced by blue-green algae) in Chittaurgarh district of Rajasthan and Columnar Basaltic Lava in Coconut Island of Udupi district in Karnataka.

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