‘This will greatly enhance international tourism and boost the economy of the region’
The Visakhapatnam district is broadly classified by geologists into two regions – the plain area and the hilly tracts that come under the Eastern Ghats. And they say that the regions that fall under the plain area and the Araku hills have all the trappings to be named as the geopark, as its geological diversity ranges from the present to 1,800 millennia.
The potential geological features of Visakhapatnam finds a place in the book brought out by INTACH ‘A monograph on potential Geoparks of India’.
Speaking to The Hindu, D. Rajasekhar Reddy, advisor to Geo Heritage Cell of INTACH and former professor of Geology, Andhra University, said geopark region is not limited to one particular site or monument but an entire region that has geological, archaeological and cultural sites and values and Visakhapatnam has plenty. He is also the editor of the book.
Right from the beaches that are at least 6,000-year-old to the Erramatti Dibbalu that dates back to 20,000 years and from the 65,000-year-old volcanic ash bed in Araku to Borra Caves that is 160 million-year-old, Visakhapatnam has it all, he said.
According to him, Visakhapatnam has all the three components such as geological features, archaeological and cultural features.
“Under the geological features, we have the beaches from Gangavaram to Bheemunipatnam, the natural arch at Mangamaripeta beach, the serpentine hood formation at Thotlakonda beach, the Borra Caves, the volcanic ash bed at Araku and the Erramatti Dibbalu,” he said.
The Buddhist sites at Thotlakonda, Bavikonda, Pavurallakonda, Bojjannakonda and Lingalukonda are classified as potential archaeological sites and are over 2,000-year-old.
The temples such as at Simhachalam and Old Cemetery in the Old Town have historical value and the tribal culture, by itself, is a potential subject for cultural study, said Prof. Rajasekhar Reddy.
The book has proposed fourteen geoparks from seven States in the country and the idea is to address the stakeholders and the government to take up steps to declare them as geoparks and protect and conserve them for posterity.
The State government needs to protect the valuable geological, archaeological, and cultural sites by designating them as geoparks following the guidelines of the UNESCO.
The State government should establish the Visakhapatnam Geopark by bringing all important sites, under one integrated Geopark Management Authority (GPMA) and nominate members to it, he said.
The management authority should oversee policy making and provide guidelines for proper upkeep of the tourist sites. The GPMA should open an exclusive website for the geopark, oversee the establishment of facilities like tourism information centres, trained guides, signage boards, amenities and facilities for tourists at the sites. The government should identify and promote marketing of the local products based on the native skills as souvenirs of the area that will help improve the economy of the local people. If it is done, then Visakhapatnam will be one of the finest geoparks in the country and thus can be a leader in guiding other States as well as get a chance to be recognised by the UNESCO. This will greatly enhance international tourism and boost up the economy of the region, said Prof. Rajasekhar Reddy.
The geopark concept arose in the mid-1990s in European countries as a response to the need to conserve and enhance the value of areas of geological significance in the Earth history.
At present, there are 161 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 44 countries. China alone has 41 UNESCO Global Geoparks.