- India has a diverse range of geological formations, sediment, and fossils, making up its rich natural heritage. However, the nation hasn’t done much to protect and promote the value of this natural “geo-history.” This natural heritage has been destroyed and appropriated as a result of neglect.
- The Ministry of Mines is attempting to strengthen the conservation process by piloting the draft Geo-heritage Sites and Geo-relics (Preservation and Maintenance) Bill, 2022.
GS Paper-1: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, literature, and Architecture from ancient to modern times; Indian Geography
Describe the idea of “Geo-heritage Sites and Geo-relics” and evaluate the draught “Geo-heritage Sites and Geo-relics (Preservation and Maintenance) Bill, 2022” for its potential to protect the natural resources found at such sites. (250 Words)
The Main Aspects of the Bill
- A site may be designated as a geo-heritage site of national importance by the central government. Geologically significant elements, such as geo-relics or unmanicured rock sculptures, must be present at geo-heritage sites.
- The Bill aims to grant the Director General of the Geological Survey of India (GSI) the authority to declare sites as having “geo-heritage” value and take possession of relics (fossils, rocks) that rest in private hands.
- Geo-relics are movable relics, such as fossils or meteorites. Except for construction necessary for the preservation and maintenance of the geo-heritage site or any public work necessary for the general public, the Bill forbids the construction, reconstruction, repair, or renovation of any buildings within the geo-heritage site area.
- Penalties for destruction, removal, defacement, or contravention of any direction issued by the Director General, GSI in the geo-heritage site are mentioned. A fine of up to Rs. 5 lakh or a term of imprisonment up to six months, or both, are possible penalties. A further fine of up to Rs. 50,000 may be imposed for each day that the violation continues in the case of a continuing violation.
Geological Survey of India (GSI)
- The Geological Survey of India (GSI) is an Indian government-run scientific organisation.
- One of the oldest such organisations in the world and the second-oldest survey in India after Survey of India (founded in 1767), it was established in 1851 by the Government of India Ministry of Mines to conduct geological surveys and studies of India.
- It also serves as the primary source of fundamental earth science information for the government, industry, and general public, as well as an official participant in the steel, coal, metals, cement, and power industries.
- The GSI’s primary responsibilities involve the development and updating of national geoscientific data as well as the evaluation of mineral resource potential.
- It has six regional offices spread across Lucknow, Jaipur, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Shillong, and Kolkata in addition to its main office. There is a state unit in each state.
What are geo-relics and geo-heritage sites?
- The Geological Survey of India (GSI) designates geo-heritage sites/national geological monuments for protection and maintenance, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Mines in 2016.
- To safeguard these locations, the GSI or the relevant state governments take the necessary steps.
- Geo-heritage Sites: According to the draught legislation, these are “sites containing geo-relics and phenomena, stratigraphic type sections, geological structures and geomorphic landforms, including caves, natural rock-sculptures of national and international interest; and includes such portion of land adjoining the site,” which may be necessary for their preservation or for access to such sites.
- Geo-relics are referred to as “any relic or material of a geological significance or interest” and include sediments, rocks, minerals, meteorites, and fossils. The ability to purchase georelics “for its preservation and maintenance” will be granted to the GSI.
- Among the 32 geo-heritage sites spread across 13 states are the Akal Fossil Wood Park in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, and the Volcanogenic bedded Barytes of Mangampeta in the Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh.
The Controversy related to bill
- Experts who work outside the GSI-fold in Central and State universities, important national research institutions, and private organisations are concerned that the bill’s absolute vesting of power in the GSI alone will obstruct palaeontological research.
- They call for the creation of a more inclusive body, akin to a National Geo-heritage Authority, that can democratically decide whether to designate certain locations as having “geohistorical” significance and how to best preserve artefacts and discoveries.
The Need for Balance:
- While each method of governance has advantages and disadvantages, it is important to remember that while acting as a ring fence, legislation should not be used as a means of stifling independent investigation.
- There will be disagreement over issues of preservation and subsistence due to the high cost of land and India’s economic needs, but any legislation must attempt to balance these forces and foster consensus.
- The proposed Geo-heritage Sites and Geo-relics (Preservation and Maintenance) Bill, 2022, represents an important step in safeguarding India’s geo-history.
- Although some experts have expressed concern about the bill’s provisions, it is imperative to protect India’s natural resources.
- A more inclusive body that can democratically decide on the preservation of artefacts and finds is necessary, as is striking a balance between preservation and livelihood.
- The preservation of India’s geohistory is extremely valuable from a scientific, cultural, and economic standpoint, so it is crucial to establish a thorough framework for doing so.