In a first, an ancient circular lake created by a meteorite strike in Maharashtra and a hexagonal mosaic of basaltic rocks in an island off Udupi are poised to become global geoparks, under a Geological Survey of India (GSI) plan.
Lonar Lake in Maharashtra and St. Mary’s Island and Malpe beach in coastal Karnataka are the GSI’s candidates for UNESCO Global Geopark Network status.
The road to recognition, however, is long. An aspiring Global Geopark must have a dedicated website, a corporate identity, comprehensive management plan, protection plans, finance, and partnerships for it to be accepted. In mid-August, GSI moved ahead with the plan, setting a follow-up time frame of 100 days.
The Geopark tag is akin to that of a ‘World Heritage Site’ for historical monuments that can bring India’s famed geological features to the global stage.
“These are spectacular to look at even for the general public who may not understand that they are also geologically important. Lonar lake is the only known meteorite crater in basaltic rock and is world famous, while St. Mary’s island is a unique phenomenon that has been preserved well,” says Asit Saha, Director, Geodata, at the GSI Headquarters in Kolkata.
St. Mary’s Island, declared a national geo-heritage site in 1975, is estimated to be an 88-million-year-old formation that goes back to a time when Greater India broke away from Madagascar.
Lonar crater became a geo-heritage site in 1979. It is relatively young geologically, at just 50,000 years old. A meteorite estimated to weigh two-million-tonnes slammed into the Earth, creating a 1.83-km diameter crater where the lake formed. It is distinguished by a near-perfect, circular ejecta blanket, which refers to earth thrown up during the collision, around it.