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Jhamarkotra Stromatolites : Rare Fossil Park rotting away

Crock- Rock in bad shape

Udaipur : While Udaipur is a strong contender in the ‘smart city’ race, the Stromatolites at JhamarKotra, a rare and isolated geological site some 25 kilometers from the city is slowly rotting away of negligence. Due to the esthetic and unique ‘crocodile-skin’ weathering of rock phosphate here the site is referred to as ‘Magar-machh Bhata’ by the locals here. The discovery of unique algal stromatolite fossils here, years back in 1978, had then been an event of international significance because the diverse varieties were found over a strike length of 15 km, in Precambrian Aravalli Supergoup of rocks of Rajasthan , an undoubted proof of life dating back to ~1800 Million Years. The site is listed among the 26 unique geological sites (National Geological Monument) and seven fossil parks in India by the Geological Survey of India which has become a neglected place now and the objective of the park to preserve the rare fossils for future generations too forgotten.

Prosopis juliflora (Vilayati Babool) and Euphorbia caducifolia (Danda Thur) is invading the area due to surface degradation as well as lack of maintenance. The entrance gate is completely destroyed and fossil samples affixed on its pillars have been removed.

Prosopis juliflora (Vilayati Babool) and Euphorbia caducifolia (Danda Thur) is invading the area due to surface degradation as well as lack of maintenance. The entrance gate is completely destroyed and fossil samples affixed on its pillars have been removed.

In 1968 the astounding discovery of stromatolitic Jhamarkotra Rock Phosphate deposit was made when a geologist visited the popular outing site of limestone cave temple, the Jhameshwar Temple. Local people brought to his notice the Magar-Machh-Bhata (croc-rock) which fascinated him. The sample was tested and it turned out to be phosphate rich. Its “stromatolitic” characteristics and importance came to be known later on. Earlier, most of India’s requirement of phosphate was met through import and therefore the discovery of rich and large rock phosphate deposit at Jhamarkotra was a big relief. There are several minor occurrences of rock phosphate around Udaipur, at other places in Rajasthan as well as in India, but none of them match the quality and quantity of Jhamarkotra deposit. The rock phosphate is used in the manufacture of the superphosphate, triple-super­ phosphate, nitro-phosphate, mono- and di-ammonium phosphate and di-calcium phosphate besides other phosphorous based chemicals.

Potential Geo-heritage site- There are certainly quite a few places that can surely be included as Geoparks under the UNESCO scheme for international recognition. The Jhamarkotra Rock Phosphate Stromatolite Monument surely qualifies for a Geopark status for its importance as a site that provides certain proof of life on earth 1800 million years ago” said Dr Pushpendra Singh Ranawat, retired Professor of Geology, Mohanlal Sukhadia University. The NGM-Fossil Park area needs to be protected and the lease holders should be assured that popularizing this site will not have any adverse effect on mining activity which is well taken care of under the watchful eyes of State Pollution Control Board. The Department of Mines & Geology which is the revenue earning agency should also be made responsible for its maintenance, may be 1% of the revenue earned from the area could be earmarked for the monument’s upkeep, suggest Ranawat. Souvenirs made of secondary apatite that looks like chert and the crocodile skin weathering samples should be promoted.

The VIPs visiting Udaipur could be gifted these with a brief comprehensive write up which could definitely boost geo-tourism, Prof Ranawat said. “ There are no signboards on the road leading to the NGM. The gate between the cement pillars is gone and the monument is lying in an utter state of neglect” said Dr Sunil Dubey, an activist and researcher. There are no descriptive boards or printed brochures to help visitors know about this unique place of international importance. Prosopis juliflora (Vilayati Babool) and Euphorbia caducifolia (Danda Thur) is invading the area due to surface degradation as well as lack of maintenance. The entrance gate is completely destroyed and fossil samples affixed on its pillars have been removed. Samples of various types of stromatolites fixed on the platforms as well those naturally present in the surface rocks are completely unprotected, Dubey said.

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