Lonar Lake and St. Mary’s Island soon to become Global Geoparks

The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has laid out a plan to commemorate heritage locations in Maharashtra and Karnataka as Global Geoparks. It is a tag similar to that of  “World Heritage Site” wherein the geological features are highlighted on the global stage.

The sites chosen are- Lonar Lake in Maharashtra and St. Mary’s Island and Malpe beach in coastal Karnataka are the GSI’s candidates for UNESCO Global Geopark Network status.

UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education, and sustainable development.

Their bottom-up approach of combining conservation with sustainable development while involving local communities is becoming increasingly popular. At present, there are 140 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 38 countries.

An aspiring Global Geopark must have a dedicated website, a corporate identity, a comprehensive management plan, protection plans, finance, and partnerships for it to be accepted.

 Once a UNESCO Global Geopark, always a UNESCO Global Geopark?

No, a UNESCO Global Geopark is given this designation for a period of four years after which the functioning and quality of each UNESCO Global Geopark are thoroughly re-examined during a revalidation process.

As part of the revalidation process, the UNESCO Global Geopark under review has to prepare a progress report and a field mission will be undertaken by two evaluators to revalidate the quality of the UNESCO Global Geopark. If, on the basis of the field evaluation report, the UNESCO Global Geopark continues to fulfill the criteria the area will continue as a UNESCO Global Geopark for a further four-year period (so-called “green card”).

If the area no longer fulfills the criteria, the management body will be informed to take appropriate steps within a two-year period (so-called “yellow card”). Should the UNESCO Global Geopark not fulfill the criteria within two years after receiving a “yellow card”, the area will lose its status as a UNESCO Global Geopark (so-called “red card”).

What is the Global Geoparks Network?

The Global Geoparks Network (GGN), of which membership is obligatory for UNESCO Global Geoparks, is a legally constituted not-for-profit organization with an annual membership fee. The GGN was founded in 2004 and is a dynamic network where members are committed to work together and exchange ideas of best practice and join in common projects to raise the quality standards of all products and practices of a UNESCO Global Geopark. While the GGN as a whole comes together every two years, it functions through the operation of regional networks, such as the European Geoparks Network that meets twice a year to develop and promote joint activities.

Difference between UNESCO Global Geoparks, Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites:

UNESCO Global Geoparks, together with the other two UNESCO site designations Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites, give a complete picture of celebrating our heritage while at the same time conserving the world’s cultural, biological and geological diversity, and promoting sustainable economic development.

While Biosphere Reserves focus on the harmonized management of biological and cultural diversity and World Heritage Sites promote the conservation of natural and cultural sites of outstanding universal value, UNESCO Global Geoparks give international recognition for sites that promote the importance and significance of protecting the Earth’s geodiversity through actively engaging with the local communities.

In case an aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark includes a World Heritage Site or Biosphere Reserve, a clear justification and evidence has to be provided on how UNESCO Global Geopark status will add value by being both independently branded and in synergy with the other designations.

Lonar lake is an ancient circular lake created by a meteorite strike in Maharashtra. It is the only known meteorite crater in basaltic rock. Lonar crater became a geo-heritage site in 1979. It is a relatively young geologically, at just 50,000 years old.

Mary’s Island, declared a national geo-heritage site in 1975, is estimated to be an 88-million-year-old formation that goes back to a time when Greater India broke away from Madagascar.

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