Draft Geo-Heritage Sites and Geo-Relics Bill, 2022

Draft Geo-Heritage Sites and Geo-Relics Bill, 2022

News: The Union Ministry of Mines notified the draft Geo-Heritage Sites and Geo-relics (Preservation and Maintenance) Bill, 2022, for public comments.

 The Geological Survey of India (GSI, established in 1851, comes under the Ministry of Mines) investigates and assesses coal and other mineral resources of the country through regional-level exploration.
 It declares geo-heritage sites/ national geological monuments and along with the respective state governments takes necessary measures to protect these sites.

Key Provisions:
 It is aimed at providing for the declaration, preservation, protection and maintenance of geo-heritage sites and geo-relics of national importance, for geological studies, education, research and awareness purposes.
 It defines Geo-heritage sites as sites containing geo-relics and phenomena, stratigraphic type sections, geological structures and geomorphic landforms including Caves, natural rock sculptures of national and international interest; and Land adjoining the site is required for their conservation/ access.
 It defines a Geo-relic as any relic or material of geological significance or interest like sediments, rocks, minerals, meteorites or fossils. The GSI will have the power to acquire geo-relics for its preservation and maintenance.

Key provisions regarding Preservation:
 Authorise the Central Government to declare a geo-heritage site to be of national importance. This would be under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (RFCTLARR Act).
 Compensation to the owner of land in accordance with the RFCTLARR Act.
 Prohibition on construction, reconstruction, repair or renovation of any building within the geo-heritage site area.
 Penalties for destruction, removal, defacement or contravention of any direction issued by the Director General, GSI.

Why is it being criticized?
 Sweeping powers provided to GSI and issue pertaining to land acquisition can create tensions with Local communities.

Way Forward
 A body like National Geo-Heritage Authority needs to be created which can democratically decide locations of “geo-historical” significance. 

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