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What does the Ministry of Mines’ draft Geo-heritage Sites and Geo-relics Bill say?

GS Paper  1

 Syllabus: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times

 

Source: IE 

Context: The Union Ministry of Mines notified the draft Geo-heritage Sites and Geo-relics (Preservation and Maintenance) Bill, 2022, for public comments.

 

Background:

  • The Geological Survey of India (GSI, established in 1851, comes under the Ministry of Mines) investigates and assesses coal and other mineral resources of the country through regional-level exploration.
  • It declares geo-heritage sites/ national geological monuments and along with the respective state governments takes necessary measures to protect these sites.
  • The 32 geo-heritage sites are spread across 13 states and despite identifying these sites, there are concerns over their preservation, including Fossil Parks (e.g. Siwalik Fossil Park, Himachal Pradesh); Geological Marvels (e.g. Lonar Lake, Maharashtra), Rock Monuments (e.g. Peninsular Gneiss, Karnataka) etc

  

About the draft Bill and its salient provisions:

  • It is aimed at providing for the declaration, preservation, protection and maintenance of geo-heritage sites and geo-relics of national importance, for geological studies, education, research and awareness purposes.
  • It defines Geoheritage sites as sites containing geo-relics and phenomena, stratigraphic type sections, geological structures and geomorphic landforms including –
    • Caves, natural rock sculptures of national and international interest; and
    • Land adjoining the site is required for their conservation/ access.
  • It defines a Geo-relic as any relic or material of geological significance or interest like sediments, rocks, minerals, meteorites or fossils.
    • The GSI will have the power to acquire geo-relics for its preservation and maintenance.

 

What does the draft Bill say regarding preservation?

  • Authorise the Central Government to declare a geo-heritage site to be of national importance.
    • This would be under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (RFCTLARR Act).
  • Compensation to the owner of land in accordance with the RFCTLARR Act.
  • Prohibition on construction, reconstruction, repair or renovation of any building within the geo-heritage site area.
  • Penalties for destruction, removal, defacement or contravention of any direction issued by the Director General, GSI.

 

Criticisms of the draft Bill:

  • The GSI has been given sweeping powers.
  • The issue of land acquisition could also result in friction with local communities.

 

Way ahead: The experts call for the creation of a more inclusive body, akin to a National Geoheritage Authority, that can more democratically decide locations of “geohistorical” significance and how best to preserve them.

 

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