Another attempt has been made for a Triassic Fossil Park in Kashmir at Khonmoh, District Pulwama. Ziraat Times carried the news the other day that the Environmental Policy Group & Srinagar Smart City Limited CEO cum Commissioner SMC Athar Amir Khan discussed Kashmir Triassic Fossil Park, Guryul Ravines, Khonmoh on the World Tourism Day.
The deliberations addressed the related events dating back to 260-252 million years. The Guryul Ravines, Khonmoh, geologically known as Vihi District, are the repository fossil beds dating back to 260 million years (pre-Dinosaur Permian period). Tethys Ocean existed where Guryul Ravine now stands. These rocks are scientifically critical for geological research on the Permian/Triassic boundary which saw sudden extinction of up to 90% of all marine species and 70% of land species living about 252 million years ago. The Guryul Ravines is world famous as being among the most complete and important of that period and enjoyed Global Stratotype status. The sequence of events of massive extinction (known as mother of extinctions) 252 million years ago are best preserved in Kashmir. The world’s first ever recorded Tsunami event is well preserved in the rocks of Guryul Ravines.
The Khonmoh PT section of 3 metres is much larger than 27 cm of Meishan. Section (China) attracts millions of tourists. A memorandum of understanding has been signed by Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Natural Reserve New York, USA- the World’s largest Fossil Park in providing technical support required for development of Kashmir Triassic Fossil Park. And a joint strategy chalked out for developing the internationally acknowledged Fossil Park in coming weeks. Prior to it, the then Director Tourism Kashmir Mehmood Ahmed Shah, during 2018 took note of its importance and acquired a land measuring about 25 kanals of land that was duly fenced. He has written an elaborate write up with regards to its relevance to protect the site and develop it as a Fossil Park which had far more importance than other Fossil Parks around the world.
But the point is what has been left there to show of this exceptionally once well-preserved organic remains of the camoebians (testate amoebae) in marine sediments that straddle the greatest extinction event in the Phanero-zoic: the Permian-Triassic Boundary. Outcrops from the Late Permian Zewan Formation and the Early Triassic Khonmoh deposits represents a complete sedimentary sequence here or elsewhere in the Kashmir valley of this geological treasure which had been subjected to detail investigation from the beginning of the nineteenth Century onward.
While Park shall provide a glimpse of its deposition history at the same time scenario all around shall drop enough horrifying hints to the Geological fraternity visitors from the world about our insensitiveness, and failure to preserve these invaluable rare treasures the valley once possessed of which a few remnants are now left here and there.
Guryul patch in Khanmoh, being flat, unlike spur around , mining was not profitable that factor came to its rescue, otherwise it should have also met the same fate as have been meted with almost entire Triassic fossil pockets from western end in Panjrattan, near Panthachowk right up to Eastern side up to Chekh Sangari, in between generally called Zewan Spur entirely wiped out without any remorse. That has been subjected to reckless extraction for masonry stone and raw material for the cement factories which has left behind nothing but ugly scars leaving hardly any trace of fossils it once possessed.
On the assurance of anonymity one of the veteran Geologist, a son of the soil when sought his views to be doubly sure about my field driven assessments about the Zewan Spur and around shared, Zewan spur, a store house of Permian fauna, has almost completely vanished due to quarrying as a building stone. He remembered at Indira Nagar, and, around and in other colonies, in Srinagar, and in Pulwana district mainly. the bulk of the material used to come from the above site. The rubble used to be full of fossil shells and fenestellid Bryozoa.This entire belt falls under Dachingan National Park world famous for Kashmir Stag , Hangul, as such comes under Wildlife Protection Act. Felt painful seeing this treasure getting wasted but had no control. Apart from it raw material used as a raw material for dozens of the cement factories around for decades unhindered, the license to extract was issued not out of ignorance but for consideration by no one other than the Director of the J&K Geology and Mining Department.
Even an elementary Geological student of the state knows or should know its importance, as such the Department of Geology and Mining instead of protecting it as one of the geological treasures has become a reason to vandalize and destroy , a heinous crime carried without any punishment.. Strange enough Kashmir inhabitants who knew its importance, like Kashmir University. Colleges and the geologists of the repute that inhabit in the valley never raised any objection, reason better known to them, history cannot and should not spare them from condemning their lackadaisical approach. Normally it could have not been done but the inquest revealed that the department of J&K Geology and Mining is under the spell of nonprofessional management.
Was established for Geological explorations to improve upon what was already known in 1960 .Its mandate has been to carry out the work on Geological investigation on the laid down parameters unknotting riddles of missing links should have been matter of intensive and extensive studies, impact of climate change, abnormal sprouting of Hydroelectric projects, seismology, glaciology, paleontological and mineral inquest. Tragically over the passage of time proved wishful thinking.
In its entire history of sixty years of establishment, out of thirteen Directors the Department has so far, only two were geologists Tasadiq Hussain, its first director another A. R. Mir rest all have been non technical persons generally referred as file pushers. Geological fraternity world over is bound to ask rational, behind such a callous approach to deal with such a sensitive and important subject. Instead it confined itself to as a Royalty contractor, for permitting to extract stones, bajri, sand and gravels.
State exhibits its own unique geological formation, and possesses a complete Geological calendar. forms one of the signification segments of the Himalayan range and other correlated formations. For a Geologist, once in a lifetime Pilgrimage to Kashmir to study its geology is a desire in preference to acquire firsthand knowledge and study it from various aspects. It requires mention the Geological investigation was started in the State during Maharaja Ranbir Singh during 1862, before establishment of Geological Survey of India,with the, Frederick Drew serving as a Geologist in the erstwhile State now reduced to a Union Territory.
As a student of geology, in seventies, Bren and other areas were on itinerary list for field experiences. However, credit goes to Bai Moti Parimoo, who apprised me in detail its importance and its wiping out through mining activities of the great treasure, in 1998.When we visited this area, got horrified, thereafter from States where he is settled now, a regular visitor to his soil n from there used to ask about Zewan Spur. It requires mention the Northlines daily newspaper from jammu carried my write up on November 30, 2015 a write under caption Khrew: An Ecological Disaster in the making; Govt un-moved.
Khrew is under the grip of an ecological disaster that has remained unabated over the years. It is a catastrophe that can fast turn into a tragedy caused by about 26 odd cement manufacturing plants and a number of stone crusher, there after followed the matter along with illegal mining very rigorously but bore no result. This writer has been regular visitor, with a break with effect from July 2019 till date. As such the quantum damage caused since then cannot be assessed at this moment but while writing, these lines just cross checked on cell from our associates, from the site response mining goes on.
Kashmir Triassic Fossils have been found and studied at other places too such as Apharwat, Bren, Gulabgarh, Gulmarg, Khanmuh, Marhoum,Nagmarg, Muzaffarabad, Sengapore etc. It was Richard Dixon Oldham during 1904 who located Zewan beds in Vihi district Kashmir, that led to further studies in detail by other geologists as well.
(The writer is a Jammu-based environmentalist)