Indore, Feb 10 (PTI) Well-known paleontologist Ashok Sahni has urged the government to enact a law to declare fossils of extinct animals as national assets and preserve them from damage.

Speaking to PTI Sunday, the award-winning scientist who has been studying dinosaur fossils for several years now, said there was no such law in the country at present.

“Fossils found so far show that nearly 35 species of dinosaurs were existing in the country 60 million years ago.

But there is no law in the country to protect these fossils,” Sahni said.

“Nobody can lay claim on fossils because this is the country’s heritage. A special law should be enacted to declare fossils found in the country as national assets,” he added.

The 2011 National GeoScience Award winner further asserted that a provision for punishment and fine should also be enacted for storing, theft, smuggling, procurement and damaging such fossils.

Citing an example of fossils going to ruins, Sahni said in the early 1980s, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) had discovered a large number of dinosaur fossils and fossilised eggs in Ravli village of Balasinor region in Gujarat.

“A dinosaur fossil park was developed in Balasinor after this important discovery drew the attention of the world. But it is regrettable that the work of preserving dinosaur fossils could not be carried out there in a proper manner. As a result, fossils are now found there in small pieces,” he rued.

The scientist, who recently visited a dinosaur fossil park near the famous Buddhist caves in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, said, “I do not want dinosaur fossils in Dhar to meet the same fate like that in Balasinor. The Madhya Pradesh government needs to be careful about the conservation of dinosaur fossils in this park.”

Vishal Verma, head of Mangal Panchayatan Parishad, a researchers group which had discovered dinosaur egg fossils in Dhar, concurred with Sahni on the need for special laws to protect them.

“The protection of fossils is very difficult in the absence of a special law. It would be better if the law is enacted soon,” Verma said.

Lack of awareness among people, especially in rural areas, had revealed cases of fossil dinosaur eggs being used as grinding stones, or even as “shivling” in temples, Verma claimed.

Sahni, a former Panjab University professor, holds a PhD degree in Geology from University of Minnesota in the United States.

He is the nephew of legendary palaeobotanist Birbal Sahni who studied the fossils of the Indian subcontinent, the latter going on to establish in 1946 what is now called the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany at Lucknow.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.