Nagpur: The Vidarbha Economic Development Council (VED) has been rooting for the Lonar Crater to be declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site which it truly deserves as it is distinguished by the fact that it is the world’s third largest crater, informed Devendra Parekh, President, VED.
While at least one criterion is needed to be fulfilled to qualify for a site to be declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this crater fulfils several of the ten criteria. The criteria it fulfils are that (1) It contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance; (2) It is an outstanding example representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features; (3) It is an outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals; and (4) It contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
One can understand how valuable this site is and how easily it qualifies for being declared as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. The protection and management of such properties are very important, but despite the great importance of the site not just in the State or India but in the world, it is in a state of pathetic neglect, stated Rahul Upganlawar, Secretary General. Once UNESCO takes up the cause, it would naturally be given the protection it needs and conservation efforts would be put in.
Situated on the outskirts of Lonar town in Buldhana District, the Lonar Crater was first discovered in 1823 by British officer, J.E. Alexander. It is also written about in ancient scripts like the Skanda Puran, the Padma Puran and the Aaina-i-Akbari which make its antiquity very obvious. It has its genesis nearly 50,000 years ago, when a 2 million-ton meteorite impacted the earth to create a depression 1.83 kilometers in diameter and 150 meters deep. The force and extent of the impact can be well imagined.
Since that cataclysmic event, Lonar has evolved into an idyllic expanse of sky blue water amidst a sprawling emerald forest that stretches around it as far as the eye can see. Today, it attracts casual tourists as well as members of the scientific community from across the world, including research agencies like the Smithsonian Institution of Washington DC, the US Geological Survey, the Geological Society of India, and Sagar University, Jabalpur, and Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, which have conducted extensive studies about the site.
But, the scientific angle aside, this destination also has much to offer wildlife enthusiasts as it is generously endowed in both flora and fauna. The crater is home to hundreds of peafowl, and chinkara, which browse amongst the shrubs and bushes ringing the lake. Other residents include egrets, moor hens, herons, coots, white-necked storks, lapwings, grey wagtails, grebes, black drongos, green bee-eaters, tailorbirds, magpies and robins – as well as numerous species of migratory birds that often visit the place.
Lonar impresses with the richness of its natural heritage. And, like the meteorite that put it on the map, leaves a lasting impression. All it needs is proper care which can come through UNESCO.