Mandla Plant Fossils National Park
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Mandla Plant Fossils National Park is situated in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh in India. This national park has plants in fossil form that existed in India anywhere between 40 million and 150 million years ago spread over seven villages of Mandla District (Ghuguwa, Umaria, Deorakhurd, Barbaspur, Chanti-hills, Chargaon and Deori Kohani). The Mandla Plant Fossils National Park is an area that spreads over 274,100 square metres. Such fossils are found in three other villages of the district also, but they lie outside the national park.
The Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow, has done some work on the plant fossils of Mandla, though the study is yet in a preliminary stage. In Ghuguwa and Umaria the standing, petrified trunks of trees have been identified as Gymnosperms and Angiosperms- Monocotyledons and palms. There are certain Bryophytes also. There is some question about whether the fossils are from the late Jurassic or the early and mid Cretaceous age. This is because when the breakup of the single land mass, Pangaea occurred, it was split by the continental drift into Laurasia and Gondwana somewhere between the Jurassic and Cretaceous ages. India formed a part of Gondwana. Depending on the age in which the split occurred, the fossils are either Jurassic or Cretaceous.
Interspersed with the plant fossils are to be found the fossils of molluscs. One theory is that the area in which the fossils are located, i.e., the Narmada Valley near Mandla, was actually a deep inundation of the sea into peninsular India until the Post- Cambrian Tertiary age, about 40 million years ago. This means that Narmada was a very short river which terminated in the inland sea above Mandla, and that the recession of the sea caused geological disturbances, which created the present rift valley through which the Narmada River and Tapti River flow in their present journey to the Arabian Sea. All this, however, is speculation and conjecture because it is only recently that an interest has developed in the fossils of Mandla and detailed scientific studies are still wanting.
A region as ancient as this tells a great deal about what Madhya Pradesh was like millions of years ago. The absence of dicotyledons suggests that plant evolution was still at an early stage. The whole matter requires much more detailed study. The national park is spread over agricultural fields in seven non-contiguous villages, which makes it difficult to protect the fossils. The fossils look like ordinary rocks and are either removed from the fields unwittingly by agriculturists or are damaged by tourists and those unscrupulous people who think they can make quick money out of their sale. In Chargaon and Deori Kohani villages there has been extensive damage, especially by excavation of embedded molluscs.
Some say that if the Fossil National Park is to be saved, a separate administrative unit for park management should be set up, the land on which fossils are located should be acquired and fenced and the nearest university, Jabalpur, should be asked to set up a special research unit on the fossils.