BHUJ (Gujarat): It's more than raw beauty that captivates your interest as you drive uphill on the black hills of Kala Dungar, a good 120 km from the nearest town of Bhuj in western India. The place, at 1,800 feet above sea level, has become a hunting ground for archaeologists who have discovered the fossils of dinosaurs here, leading them to call it the Jurassic belt.
With the endlessly white desert of the Rann of Kutch beneath, these hills, made up typically of sugar cube look-alike rocks, are a treasury of the earth's past. Plans are now on to develop the place into a dinosaur fossil park very soon.
Atanu Chakrabarty, secretary of the state's tourism and small scale industries department, said that a number of dinosaur fossils have been found in this region which have been authenticated by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).
"The fossilised eggs of dinosaurs and the fossils of their body remains embedded in rocks have been discovered in the hills of Kala Dungar which have been authenticated by the GSI and ZSI officials," Chakrabarty said.
"It's a treasury of fossils dating back to 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs became extinct from the face of the earth. Plans, still at a preliminary stage, are now on to develop the place into a dinosaur fossil park."
Talks are on to decide on making available Rs.120 million for the park.
"Nothing concrete has been decided as yet but the state government will do all it can to protect and preserve these fossils which are remnants of the age gone by," Chakrabarty said.
Pavitran Vittal, an official of the tourism ministry, said that some of the fossils found at Kala Dungar have been put together at a private museum about 50 km from Bhuj.
"Some of the fossils have been collected and put together in a private museum by Narendra Singh Soda, a Pakistani who came and settled in India and has a keen interest in the subject.
"Fossilised dinosaur eggs, some the size of a canon ball, and rocks with the imprints of body remains of dinosaurs are part of his collection," Vittal said.
This is, however, not the first time that fossils of dinosaurs have been discovered in Gujarat.
Rahioli near Balasinore, which is around 90 km from Ahmedabad, is being developed into a dinosaur fossil park and is believed to have been one of the biggest hatcheries of dinosaurs in the world during the Jurassic era.
"Rahioli is developed into a dinosaur fossil park with an ample amount of help from the central government. Now an interpretation centre is being set up there, which should be functional in another six months and will be a great source of information and interest to tourists," Chakrabarty.
"Kala Dungar will also be developed on the same lines," he said.
Z.G. Ghevariya, former GSI director, had on an earlier occasion said that the area was very unique because most of the dinosaurs that roamed here were reptiles and therefore palaeontologists from across the country may come here for study and research.
"All knowledge about these giant creatures, which became extinct 65 million years ago, has to be built on the basis of fossils embedded in rocks and India constitutes part of the cluster of the same continent - the Gondwana land about 250 million years ago when dinosaurs evolved on earth," he said.
The Indroda Dinosaur and Fossil Park in Gandhinagar has the second largest hatchery of dinosaur eggs in the world. It was set up by the Geological Survey of India and is the only dinosaur museum in the country.
"Gujarat is one of the few states in India which has a such a huge wealth of fossilised dinosaur remains. We are doing everything possible to protect this wealth," Chakrabarty said.