Much of India's geological and paleontological heritage comprising thousands of specimens collected by faculty members of Indian universities on Indian soil are preserved at their academic institutions. (Agencies)
"However, as those institutions are not museums, they cannot maintain specimens when there is no in-house researcher actively working with them," says California-based eminent geologist Nigel Hughes who researches on the prehistoric rocks of Himalayas.
With limited space and resources to preserve his rich collection, paleontologist Subhendu Bardhan has been forced to dump many of his fossils inside a storeroom at the department of geological sciences in Kolkata's Jadavpur University.
India's rich collection of fossil-containing rocks, which date as far back as 3500 million years ago, provides excellent opportunities to understand the patterns of evolution and extinction. Of particular interest is its role in revealing the geological, chemical and physical processes that led to the formation of the Himalayan mountain chain.
For students and children, fossils are like magic the wand which allows them to travel through the corridor of time and understand how life existed on earth in the remote past.
"We are doing so much in conserving our endangered wildlife but what about those animals, plants and other organisms which lived on earth millions of years ago. Their traces are still with us by means of fossils," Prof Bardhan said.
Prof Bardhan specializes in ammonite fossils, a species of molluscs that is now extinct. Some of his collection date back to 150 million years.
"It's a tragedy that the hard work of my whole life would be wasted if there is no national archive to preserve these fossils. They are now waiting to be extinct after I retire in 2016," he says.
Hughes, who was in Kolkata recently to participate in a science workshop for children organized at the American Centre, fears that these specimens, rock samples, fossils, and microscope slides, risk being orphaned, forgotten and lost when the scientists who studied them retire.
Much of India's geological and paleontological heritage comprising thousands of specimens collected by faculty members of Indian universities on Indian soil are preserved at their academic institutions.