The 80-ft-high red laterite cliff facing the famed Papanasham beach at Varkala — 50 km from here — would soon be declared as a National Geological Monument by the Geological Survey of India (GSI).

The recognition to the unique sedimentary geo-morphological structure is the first step of the GSI towards making the cliff and adjoining areas the country’s first national geo-park.

All the pre-conditions to make the cliff, a national geological monument, that faces extinction owing to natural and anthropogenic hazards, had been met already and the decision is pending with the Ministry of Mines, official sources told The Hindu.

27th in country

GSI Director General A. Sundaramoorthy had visited the cliff and adjoining places last year as part of granting it the national geological monument status.

The GSI had found that Varkala was the only place in the west coast of the country where sediments in the Mio-Pliocene age (13 lakh to 2.5 crore years ago) had been exposed. The cliff will be the 27th national geological monument in the country and the second in the State after the Angadipuram Laterite.

The National Geological Monument display boards would be installed near the helipad where the sandy clay and laterite are exposed and on the south cliff where the Warkalli Formation (sedimentary rocks belonging to the Mio-Pliocene Age) is preserved. Once the national geological monument status is obtained, the effort of the GSI will be to declare the surrounding areas of the monument a national geo-park. The Centre has sanctioned a sum of Rs.1 crore already for the preliminary works for a geo museum to be set up at Varkala.

The GSI had suggested several measures to be initiated by the local body and the Tourism Department before the cliffs could be declared a geo-park. The steps mooted include reduction in ‘human pressure’ on the structure, shifting of the helipad, and construction of a seawall throughout the length of the cliff.

Geo-heritage site

Sources said Varkala, which has emerged as a popular beach destination, stands a good chance to find a place in the UNESCO’s world map of geo-heritage sites.

Earth has caved in at several places and fissures have also developed at several spots atop the cliff in the land bordering the pathway that is two-metres-and-a-half wide. Statistics show that 50,000 foreign and 1.6 lakh domestic tourists visit the Papanasham and the adjacent Black Beach at Thiruvambadi every year.