Yavatmal: A basalt rock pillar, formed around 60 million years ago from volcanic lava, has been discovered during road construction work at a village in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, a leading geologist has said.

The rock formation was found last week at Shibla-Pardi village in the Wani-Pandhakawda area of the district, he said.

Talking to PTI, environmentalist and geologist Prof Suresh Chopane said, It is a natural rock called columnar basalt formed from the lava of a massive volcanic eruption in Maharashtra 60 million years ago. The hexagon-shaped pillars were formed by cooling and contraction.

Chopane, a former member of the regional empowered committee of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said the Wani area of Yavatmal district is geographically very ancient.

“In the same area, I had found 200-million-year, old stromatolites ((layered sedimentary formations) depicting many early life forms on earth of Neoprotezoic age and six-million-year-old conch shell fossils near Pandharkavada and Maregaon tehsil, he said.

Until 70 million years ago, there was an ocean on the now Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, he said.

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But 60 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period, geographical events took place on the earth and from today’s Western Ghats, hot lava flowed in the form of fissures to Yavatmal district and central Vidarbha and up to Gujarat, known as the Deccan trap, he said.

The volcano covered an area of five lakh square km in central India. In Maharashtra, 80 per cent of the rock formations are basalt igneous rock, which comprises plagioclase feldspar, augite and accessory mineral like magnetite, he said.

Chopane said that in India, St Mary’s Island in Karnataka is famous as a tourist destination for such columnar basalt.

In Maharashtra, before Yavatmal, these rocks have been found in Mumbai, Kolhapur and Nanded. When hot lava flows into a river and suddenly cools down, it shrinks and becomes hexagon-shaped, forming such stone pillars called columnar basalt, he said.

“These rocks are very important from the geographical point of view and the administration should protect stone pillars and the area found there,” he said.

He also claimed that the Yavatmal district was inhabited by giant dinosaur-like creatures and animals 60 million years ago. There were dense forests, but due to this huge volcanic eruption in Maharashtra, all the forests and living creatures turned to ashes.

Talking to PTI, spokesperson of the Geological Survey of India (GSI) in Nagpur, Rashtrapal Chavhan, said such rock formations are found commonly.

“It had been found at many places in India and it was exposed in Wani area of Yavatmal during road excavation work…This columnar basalt rock formation is about 64 million years old,” he said.

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