Tamil Nadu

Quarrying poses threat to hundreds of fossil tree trunks in Thiruvakkarai

Fossilized tree trunks dating back to the prehistoric period have been turned into dust and used for laying roads due to unbridled quarrying

Fossilized tree trunks dating back to the prehistoric period have been turned into dust and used for laying roads due to unbridled quarrying   | Photo Credit: S.S. KUMAR

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Unbridled quarrying of red laterite soil near the country’s first National Fossil Wood Park is turning these fossils into dust

Hundreds of fossil tree trunks dating back to the prehistoric period and abundantly found in Kadagampattu and villages abutting the country’s first National Fossil Wood Park in Thiruvakkarai, are turning into dust and being used for laying roads due to unbridled quarrying of red laterite soil.

Indiscriminate quarrying has changed the landscape in Kadagampattu, destroying hundreds of fossils ranging from 10 to 30 metres in length. The rock formations that preserve imprints of fossils dating back to the Meso-Proterozoic period have been pockmarked with huge craters, which stand testimony to the extent of quarrying.

M. Sonnert, a naturalist, first documented the existence of fossilised wood in Thiruvakkarai in 1781. The tree trunks were brought inland by rivers during floods and deposited in the water bodies along with sediments about 20 million years ago.

According to the Geological Survey of India, on burial due to the putrefaction processes, the organic matter was replaced with silica, retaining the original structures such as annular rings and tree trunk nodes.

“Countless fossilised tree trunks are spread over an area of about 247 acres in the villages surrounding the National Fossil Food Park. Some are 30 metres in length and 1.5 metres in diameter. Only a few were collected and lie haphazardly in the park. Many other fossilised woods have not even been brought into the park enclosure,” said Ko. Senguttuvan, coordinator of Nadunaatu Centre for History and Cultural Research.

Mr. Senguttuvan pointed out that more than eight quarries, a few of them, illegal were functioning in Kadagampattu and Thollamur villages. Instead of protecting the site, the administration has given licenses to several crushing units and the companies have been indiscriminately plundering the rock formations into chips for laying roads.

“We did a survey of the area and found that the fossilised remains have also been used on the Villupuram-Vikravandi railway line and dumped on both sides of the Villupuram-Tiruchy national highway,” he added.

According to N. Ilango, Head of the Department of Tamil, Tagore Arts College, “The fossils in the present site are being destroyed largely due to people’s ignorance and greed coupled with lack of knowledge of history. The fossils found in Thiruvakkarai provide an accurate record of the prehistoric period and it is highly unfortunate that this national treasure trove is being destroyed instead of being protected.”

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 2:44:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/quarrying-poses-threat-to-hundreds-of-fossil-tree-trunks-in-thiruvakkarai/article30250049.ece

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