The management plan of the Pithoragarh Forest Division for the years 2011 to 2021 has proposed the Lapthal region to be declared as a Fossil National Park.
The region is close to the Indo-Tibetan border. Some part of it lies in Pithoragarh district and the rest in Chamoli district.
State Additional Secretary Manoj Chandran said, “The proposal is to conserve the fossils and the rare and endangered flora and fauna of the area. This will also prevent cross-border illegal trade and poaching of fossils, flora and fauna.”
At present a detailed proposal for the park is being prepared by the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve officials. Director of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve B. K. Gangte said, “We are preparing the plan and mapping the area that will come under the park. Once the plan is complete we will submit it to the State government for approval.”
Once the mapping is over the Fossil National Park would be spread across an area measuring between 500 and 1,000 sq-km, most of which lies 4,500 metres above mean sea level.
The area is the exposed ocean floor of the ancient Tethys Sea, which disappeared during the formation of the Himalayas.
Mr Chandran said, “The area between the Indian plate and the Eurasian plate was an ocean called the Tethys Ocean or Tethys Sea, which drained out during the collision of the Indian Plate with the Eurasian Plate resulting in the formation of the Himalayas.”
“The exposed ocean floor has marine fossils, mostly of the ammonites and belemnites group, which the locals commonly call 'Shaligram pathar' and is used for keeping in temples and worship places in homes,” Mr Chandran added.
The area has sparse vegetation. Several swamps and pools in the area are home to various species of flora and fauna.
Snow leopard, musk deer, Tibetan wild ass, woolly hare, and Tibetan wolf are among the species of fauna found in the region.
Being in the international border, the region is guarded by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve administration.
At present either an 18 kilometre trek from Sumna in Chamoli district or a longer trek from Munsiyari in Pithoragarh district are the only routes to reach the area. However, a route which is to be prepared by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is being proposed from Sumna to Lapthal.