Fossils have played an important role in understanding the history of the world as they provide us with the information about the physical evidence of animals and plants that lived in the past. Palaeontologists uncover new ideas about former life on earth with the help of their discovery. Fossils refer to the remains, impressions or traces of organisms that existed millions of years ago. Usually, these are preserved in sedimentary rocks and bodies of water.
The “Salkhan Fossil Park”, a “Geological Heritage”, is located 12 kilometres from Robertsganj town on the Varanasi-Shaktinagar highway (SH 5A) in the Salkhan village in Sonebhadra district of eastern Uttar Pradesh, India. The fossils found in the Sonbhadra Fossils Park are algae and stromatolites types of fossils. The park is spread over an area of about 25 hectares in Kaimur range, adjacent to Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary. It comes under jurisdiction of the State forest department. It has been estimated by American scientists that the fossils in this park are nearly 1500 million years old and date back to the Mesoproterozoic period. The fossils found here are the oldest of its kind making this geological heritage even more important on the international maps and an invaluable possession not only for India but also for the entire world. This fossils park has been declared by scientists as one of the most important destinations to unearth the Earth’s geological and biological past along with being the evidence to the emergence of life. Scientists also claim that the park is much older and is thrice larger than the Yellowstone National Fossil Park in the United States. Fossils found here are the algae and stromatolites, the oldest fossils on the earth. These sedimentary structures or stromatolites consist of laminated carbonate or silicate rocks produced over geologic time by trapping, binding or precipitation of sediments by groups of micro-organisms, primarily cyanobacteria (blue green algae), which are also evidence of the primitive (prokaryotic) forms of life.
Development and Research:
People who have conducted research in Salkhan Fossils Park include Mr. Auden (1993), Mr. Mathur (1958 and 1965), Professor S. Kumar (1980-1981) and others. Later on August 23, 2001, Mr. Vijay Shankar Chaturvedi, a journalist, featured this area through an article for the Hindi newspaper named “Hindustan”. As a result, this was formally inaugurated as a fossil park by the then District Magistrate Mr. Bhagawan Shankar on August 8, 2002.
This fossils park impressed Canadian geologist, Mr. H. J. Hoffman who remarked it as a “beautiful and clear fossils”. An international workshop was conducted in December 2002 which attracted the participation from 42 delegates from India and abroad.
In 2013, the state government sanctioned Rupees 12.5 million for the development of Salkhan Fossils Park.
After the identification of this fossil park being honoured and making the district as a lucky place to be first evidence of life, the possibility of finding hydrocarbon, uranium and phosphorite has been increased.
Difficulties in the development:
Although the Salkhan Fossil Park houses the exclusive fossils, but it is deprived of the attention it deserves regarding its conservation and protection. Instead of being the oldest and much larger Fossils Park in comparison to the Yellowstone National Fossil Park in the United States, it is not frequented by visitors. The reason behind this can be understood with the location of the park because it is infested by Naxal activity, poverty and unemployment which also play a vital role for the deplorable conditions of the park. Lack f security has also seen some smugglers who plunder the park’s wealth. Also, fossils in the park are unprotected and the park is open to animal grazing because of stolen barricading wires around it. Fossils have been destroyed by hammers.
Beyond being one of the most important fossils park in the world, the place is recognised by a handful of researchers and reports, unlike the Yellowstone fossil park being visited by 4 million visitors annually with revenue of Rs. 300 crore. All this is because of the apathetic attitude of the local administration and ignorant locals as these state government or concerned officials have failed to make necessary arrangements.
As a solution to these problems, the park should be developed as a tourist spot and can also be declared as “National Geographic Heritage”. Developing it as a tourist spot might help to generate some revenue and open job opportunities for the locals.