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Himachal government bans cheap sale of fossil memorabilia in Spiti Valley

After years of destruction, the Himachal Pradesh government has finally banned the sale of cheap marine fossils, dating back hundreds of years, to tourists visiting the scenic Spiti Valley.

Marine fossils are found in the hills near the villages of Lalung, Mud, Komic, Hikkim and Langza in the Spiti Valley and sold for prices as low as ??50 to ??5,000.

Common fossils for sale include coral reefs from the Triassic Period (250 to 199 million years ago) and ammonoids from the Triassic-Jurassic period (199 to 145 million years ago).

“The increase in tourist traffic, including from foreign countries, has resulted in the destruction of geological artefacts. Many tourists visiting the valley are aware of the availability of fossils. Some of them are displayed for sale in various restaurants and eateries. Spiti’s fossil memorabilia are even promoted on blogs, travel sites and other internet platforms and there is a high demand for these, ”said Lara Tsering, tour operator and hotel operator in Kaza.

Tsering added: “Many fossils were also destroyed during the construction of roads and other buildings.

State geologist Piyush Guleria said: “The majority of the fossils found at Spiti are marine fossils. Its very important; it helps provide details of ancient geography. Steps must be taken to preserve them.

“The fossils are older than the Himalayas. Many studies have been carried out on these fossils. Geologists in the region have studied the isolation of the Indian plate, its collusion and its evolution. This provides the geological history of the country, ”he said.

The Spiti Valley contains an almost continuous succession, ranging from the Cambrian (542 million to 488 million years ago) to the Cretaceous (between 145 million and 65 million years ago), making it a popular destination for paleontologists.

“We must stop the exploitation of fossils. The locals encourage the sale of fossils. We therefore passed a decree to prevent the sale of fossils. These will be kept at the museum; if anyone wants to study it, we will allow them to take it on condition that they return it, ”said Mahender Pratap Singh Rana, magistrate of Kaza district.

Construction of a museum is underway and will be completed by next year, he added.

Some locals have also made efforts for the preservation of fossils. “We run camps from time to time to educate locals about heritage preservation,” said Rajinder Bodh, a hotelier from Spiti.

How fossils have been destroyed over the years

Fossils of traces of giant scorpions as well as traces of trilobites found in the Parahio Valley were destroyed during the construction of a road to the Pine Valley. Giant scorpion tracks are unique and are only found in Antarctica, Australia and the Spiti Valley.

During the construction of a canal, the Middle Norian coral reef at Ratangnala, a tributary of the Spiti River, was exploited to provide building materials. The excavated earth covered what remains of the reef.

Another geologically significant feature belonging to the era when the continents first stabilized, a Paleoproterozoic Paleosol in the Sutlej Valley, was exposed during the construction of the Hindustan-Tibet Highway in Himachal Pradesh. Walls were built on either side and nothing can be seen now.

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