The area is the exposed bed of an ancient sea, which disappeared during the formation of the Himalayas

The management plan of the Pithoragarh Forest Division for 2011 to 2021 has proposed that the Lapthal region be declared 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.

“The proposal is to conserve fossils and the rare and endangered flora and fauna. This will also prevent cross-border illegal trade and poaching in fossils, flora and fauna.”

“The State government, having agreed to implement the management plan, has directed that a detailed proposal be prepared,” Mr. Chandran said.

The detailed proposal is being prepared by the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve officials. “We are mapping the area that will come under the park,” said Director of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve B. K. Gangte. “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 500 to 1,000 sq-km, most of which lies 4,500 metres above mean sea level. The area is the exposed bed of an ancient sea, which disappeared during the formation of the Himalayas.

“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,” Mr. Chandran said. It has marine fossils, mostly of the ammonites and belemnites group, which the locals commonly call ‘Shaligram pathar.’ They are kept in temples and places of worship in homes.

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 found in the region.

The region being close to the international border is guarded by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve administration.

An 18 kilometre trek from Sumna in Chamoli district or a longer trek from Munsiyari in Pithoragarh district are the only ways to reach the area now. However, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has proposed a new route from Sumna to Lapthal.