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Tuesday 27 March 2007

Scientists find palm fossils in Ladakh

New Delhi, March 27 (PTI): The frozen deserts of Ladakh once had a coastal environment millions of years ago with palm trees dotting its landscape and scientists have discovered yet another evidence of it in the form of plant fossils.
Palaeobotanists scouring the icy heights of Jammu and Kashmir came across a set of plant fossils near Tsokar in the Eastern Ladakh region a proof of the existence of a coastal environment in the region.
"The fossils belong to the middle-late Eocene period, anywhere between 45-33 million years ago," S K Paul, a senior scientist with the Dehradun-based Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology said.
The fossils were discovered near Shingbuk, about 12 km from Tsokar which lies in the Indus Suture Zone which divides the Himalayas from the Karakoram Mountains as well as the Tibetan plateau.
The scientists claim that the fossil specimen discovered by them is diffrent from all the known species of Palmacites and have described it as a new species -- 'Palmacites tsokarensis', named after the locality from where it was collected.
"Its presence not only indicates that palms were abundant during the middle-late Eocene in the region, but also suggests that the area had not attained as much height as it has today (about 5,000 meters above mean sea level)," he said.
Paul, along with co-authors of the study -- Ram Awatar, Binita Phartiyal, A Sharma and R C Mehrotra of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow, reported their findings in the latest issue of journal 'Current Science'.
Palaeobotanists have found fossils of palm trees and even a variety of rhinoceros from the Ladakh region suggesting existence of a coastal environment and later a luxuriant vegetation in the area.
"In the tectonic interpretation it can be said that a large gap of the Tethys Ocean was consumed along this zone as a result of collision of the Indian plate with the Eurasian plate," the scientists said in their report.
The Tethys Ocean existed in the Mesozoic era, the period between 250 and 65 million years ago, between the continents of Gondwana and Laurasia.
The leaf impressions were collected from the Indus Suture Zone's Hemis Formation which is considered to belong to the middle-late Eocene period.
"The fossil remains are of a fine quality and preserved in the finer part of the siltstone horizons," Paul said.
A team of palaeobotanists led by R N Lakhanpal had discovered palm fossils -- Livistona wadiai -- in the 1980s from northeast of Hemis Gompa, a famous Buddhist temple situated about 50 km southeast of Leh.
"The present fossil, along with Livistona, indicates tropical conditions during the depositional period," Paul said.
The fossils are of a fan-shaped leaf, with the preserved lamina length of about 34 cm and a preserved width of 20 cm.

Friday 16 March 2007

Kargil - Skardu road

Pakistan has finally agreed to explore the possibility of starting the Kargil-Skardu bus between Ladakh in India and the Northern Areas occupied by Pakistan. NDTV travelled to the border crossing near Kargil for a first-ever look at what this means for the locals and the army.For decades it has been a road to nowhere, ending at Army Post 43. Just 15 metres away from the forward bunker of Post 43 is a Pakistani post.
For the last three years India has proposed running a bus from Kargil to Skardu. Pakistan initially refused but has now promised to consider the request. Soldiers say opening the road will require little construction."In case we have to get this road functional, it involves a construction of approximately a kilometre of work," said Captain Amol Dhumal, Rajput Regiment.Restoring bondsBut until that is done, villagers from Hunderman near Post 43 earn a living from the land or working as porters for the Indian army. Until 1971 they worked for the Pakistan army. The people of Hunderman say life is better since the ceasefire of 2003. Everyone agrees that opening the road would transform their lives with shops, bus stations and frequent trips to relatives.Pakistan has always blocked the bus as it is sensitive to outsiders entering the Northern Areas around Skardu and Gilgit. But locals believe it is because of the poverty across."I think they are ashamed at the poverty across the LoC. That's why they don't open the LoC. Our relatives would be really happy if the LoC was opened for crossing," said Ghulam, Peon, PWD Labour Department.
For now Islamabad has taken a small step towards opening its most sensitive border. The elders have waited a lifetime and they now wonder whether their children will have to as well.

NDTV.com, Thursday, March 15, 2007

Monday 5 March 2007

Regular air service to Kargil demanded

All Kargil Ladakh Students Union, Jammu, has expressed strong resentment over no air service to Kargil.
In a press statement, the Students Union lamented that Kargil remains cut off through surface link for six months but despite that no air service has been started for the region. Recently Government airlifted 8,000 stranded passengers of Kashmir but no single sortie was made for the Kargil passengers, who are also stranded for the last 25 days, alleged the Union adding that even in emergency cases, people of the region could not move and thus miss commercial and employment opportunities.
Thus the Government should take our plight seriously and regularize the promised air service to Kargil and thus stop discriminating the people of this remote district, said the release.