1) Preserving geological heritage is as important as safeguarding biodiversity and cultural heritage

Context: India’s geo-diversity, or variety of the geological and physical elements of nature, is unique. India has tall mountains, deep valleys, sculpted landforms, long-winding coastlines, hot mineral springs, active volcanoes, diverse soil types, mineralised areas, and globally important fossil-bearing sites. It is long known as the world’s ‘natural laboratory’ for geo-scientific learning, as it is important to deconstruct India’s natural history.

India’s Geological History:

  • India was a large Island situated off the Australian coast in vast oceans called Tethys sea, separated from Asian continent till 225mya at the time Pangaea  broke.
  • Broken loose from a supercontinent 150 million years ago, the Indian landmass, situated in 50oS with all its strange-looking plants and animals, drifted northwards all by itself for 100 million years until it settled under the southern margin of the Asian continent.
  • In the meanwhile, a major event occurred that was outpouring lava formation of Deccan Traps – started somewhere around 60Mya & continued for long period.
  • At this time, Two major plates were separated by Tethys Sea & Tibetan Block(Closer to Asiatic mass).
  • Later, it started colliding with Asia about 40-50Mn year ago causing the rapid uplift of Himalayas. It got entwined with the world’s youngest plate boundary.

Importance of India’s rock formation

  • The geological features and landscapes that evolved over billions of years through numerous cycles of tectonic and climate upheavals are recorded in India’s rock formations and terrains, and are part of the country’s heritage.
  • For example,
    • the Kutch region in Gujarat has dinosaur fossils and is our version of a Jurassic Park.
    • The Tiruchirappalli region of Tamil Nadu, originally a Mesozoic Ocean, is a store house of Cretaceous (60 million years ago) marine fossils.

Need to study earth:

  • We need to know how physical geography gets transformed into a cultural entity.
  • We need to study the environmental history of the Indus River Valley, one of the cradles of human civilisation. India offers plenty of such examples.
  • Geo-heritage sites are educational spaces where people find themselves acquiring badly needed geological literacy. Environmental science is different from other ‘pure’ subjects like physics, biology, and chemistry and must be taken differently.
  • It is important to study the crisis like global warming. As the climate of the future is uncertain, decision-making is difficult. Learning from the geological past, like the warmer intervals during the Miocene Epoch (23 to 5 million years ago), whose climate can be reconstructed using proxies and simulations, may serve as an analogue for future climate.

Conservation efforts:

  • In 1991, at an UNESCO-sponsored event, ‘First International Symposium on the Conservation of our Geological Heritage’. The delegates assembled in Digne, France, and endorsed the concept of a shared legacy: “Man and the Earth share a common heritage, of which we and our governments are but the custodians.”
  • This declaration foresaw the establishment of geo-parks as sites that commemorate unique geological features and landscapes within their assigned territories; and as spaces that educate the public on geological importance.
  • These sites thus promote geo-tourism that generates revenue and employment.
  • In the late 1990s, in what may be considered as a continuation of the Digne resolution, UNESCO facilitated efforts to create a formal programme promoting a global network of geoheritage sites.
  • These were intended to complement the World Heritage Convention and the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere programme. UNESCO provided guidelines for developing national geo-parks so that they become part of the Global Geoparks Network.
  • Today, there are 169 Global Geoparks across 44 countries.
  • Countries like Vietnam and Thailand have also implemented laws to conserve their geological and natural heritage.

Situation In India:

  • Unfortunately, India does not have any such legislation and policy for conservation.
    • Though the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has identified 32 sites as National Geological Monuments, there is not a single geo-park in India which is recognised by the UNESCO.
    • This is despite the fact that India is a signatory to the establishment of UNESCO Global Geoparks. The GSI had submitted a draft legislation for geo-heritage conservation to the Ministry of Mines in 2014, but it did not make any impact.
  • The development juggernaut: Many fossil-bearing sites have been destroyed in the name of development.
    • For example, the high concentration of iridium in the geological section at Anjar, Kutch district, provides evidence for a massive meteoritic impact that caused the extinction of dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. This site was destroyed due to the laying of a new rail track in the area.
    • Similarly, a national geological monument exhibiting a unique rock called Nepheline Syenite in Ajmer district of Rajasthan was destroyed in a road-widening project.
    • The Lonar impact crater in Buldhana district of Maharashtra is an important geo-heritage site of international significance. It is under threat of destruction, although conservation work is now in progress under the High Court’s supervision.
  • High risk areas include: real estate sites, unregulated stone mining activities etc. This situation calls for immediate implementation of sustainable conservation measures such as those formulated for protecting biodiversity. Natural assets, once destroyed, can never be recreated. And if they are uprooted, they lose much of their scientific value.

Geo-conservation legislation – A way Forward:

  • The protection of geo-heritage sites requires legislation. Just like the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 led to the development of 18 notified biosphere reserves in India.
  • Similarly, Geo-conservation should be a major guiding factor in land-use planning. A progressive legal framework is needed to support such strategies.
  • In 2009, there was a half-hearted attempt to constitute a National Commission for Heritage Sites through a bill introduced in the Rajya Sabha. Though it was eventually referred to the Standing Committee, for some unstated reasons the government backtracked and the bill was withdrawn.
  • In 2019, a group of geologists under the auspices of the Society of Earth Scientists petitioned the Prime Minister and the Ministries concerned about the need for a national conservation policy under the direct supervision of a national body committed to the protection of geo-heritage sites. But the government’s apathy continues

​​​​​​2) The next step is a constitutional right to health

  • Context: “right to health” should be constitutionally recognised. The Pandemic has taught the lacunae in our healthcare system to us.

CHALLENGES FOR PEOPLE: Lets see through the lens of three categories of citizens:

  1. Farmers:  Farmers are the primary protectors of our fundamental right to life. Yet, the majority remain at a loose end when it comes to their own rights and well­being, and that of their families. 
  2. Unorganized workers: unorganized, migrant and seasonal workers are thrown into bondage and debt by having to pay for medical costs from their limited earnings. Employment benefit schemes do not reach them, and the ones that do are mostly on paper.
  3. Women: she  bear a disproportionate burden of the gaps in our healthcare system. The taboos and patriarchal expectations surrounding their health lead to immense avoidable suffering. 
    • In addition, social and economic challenges prevent them from freely and openly accessing the little care that is available.


  1. Transparency: The implementation of the right to health can provide simple, transparent and quality health care to those who are most in need of such care.
  2. Gender equality: services reach the woman where and when she needs them.
  3. Children’s welfare:  A large number of children who belong to the poorest and most marginalized communities of our country grow up working in hazardous situations be it fields, mines, brick kilns or factories. 
    • They are either not enrolled in schools or are not able to attend it due to the pressing financial need of the family.
    • When rescued, these children are ridden with complex health impacts of working — primarily tuberculosis, skin diseases, eyesight impairment, and malnutrition, besides the substantial mental health impact. 
    • These children have been denied a safety net of early childhood care and protection, the consequences of which are felt for a lifetime
  4. Economic growth: when the population is productive, the production and the economic growth is better.
  5. Ayushman bharat scheme will be strengthened: It would ensure that government covers each and every citizen under Ayushman Bharat Scheme.

India’s current state of Healthcare system:

  • While Health is a State subject, the Central Government supplements the efforts of the State Governments for improving healthcare.
  • The whole system is divided into three levels.
  • Primary Health care denotes the first level of contact between individuals and families with the health system. It includes care for mother and child which included family planning, immunization, prevention of locally endemic diseases, treatment of common diseases or injuries, provision of essential facilities, health education, provision of food and nutrition and adequate supply of safe drinking water.
    • Rural areas: It is provided through a network of Sub centres and Primary Health Centres(PHCs).
      • Primary Health Centre (PHC): staffed by Medical Officer and other paramedical staff serves every 30000 population in the plains and 20,000 persons in hilly, tribal and backward areas. Each PHC is to supervise 6 Sub centres.
      • Sub centre: consists of one Auxiliary Nurse Midwife and Multipurpose Health worker and serves a population of 5000 in plains and 3000 persons in hilly and tribal areas.
    • Urban areas: It is provided through Health posts and Family Welfare Centres.
  • Secondary Health Care:  In it patients from PHCs are referred to specialists in higher hospitals for treatment. In India, the health centres for secondary health care include District hospitals and Community Health Centre at block level.
  • Tertiary Health Care: Specialized consultative care is provided usually on referral from primary and secondary medical care. Specialised Intensive Care Units, advanced diagnostic support services and specialized medical personnel on the key features of tertiary health care. In India, under public health system, tertiary care service is provided by medical colleges and advanced medical research institutes. 


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