Seven months after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its Economic Sector report criticised the Gujarat government for neglecting Balasinor Dinosaur Fossil Park, state government’s Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Ltd. (TCGL) seems to be in no hurry to get its act together. The CAG had said that the park had the potential be a UNESCO World Heritage site, attracting tourists from world over. However, the neglect by the TCGL has meant that the dinosaur sites installed on the museum premises, about 500 meters away from the site of the fossil park and lying unused for the last nine years, have begun to fall apart.
A week ago, one of the statues inside the premises collapsed. A museum staffer, who does not wish to be identified, says that since no government officials visit the site regularly, there has been no maintenance or upkeep of the premises. In fact, only the structure of the two-storied museum was completed and about seven statues installed in the premises, without information plaques. The tourist toilets attached to the museum, too, are in a run-down state. “No one has ever officially opened this museum. The visitors arrive here on their own and leave disappointed as despite being such a huge site, there is nothing they can take back from here,” the staff said.
The CAG report, tabled in the Assembly in March, had pointed out that the lack of planning and monitoring of the project by the TCGL had led to the non-fulfillment of the envisaged goals after an investment of Rs 8.58 crore in the museum. This collection of dinosaur bones and egg hatcheries, with around 100 eggs at Raiyoli village in Balasinor taluka of Kheda district, was discovered by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) in 1981-82. About six-and-a-half-crore-year-old, it has been claimed to be the world’s oldest dinosaur egg hatchery.
N Srivastava, Commissioner of Tourism and Managing Director, TCGL, said that the department was now looking at renovating the museum as part of its plan to promote the site as a tourist spot. Srivastava told The Sunday Express, “The tender documents are ready for renovating the entire museum to make it scientific with 3D and audio visual aids in an impressive way. We have also roped in learned forest officials, like H S Singh, to guide us in making the museum special.” Srivastava said that the TCGL was looking at making “each room in the museum special”. However, he remained non-committal about a deadline to get the project in motion. Srivastava said, “I had actually set myself a deadline for June-July. But it appears that the project should be in motion soon and almost ready by March next year, which is a reasonable deadline. The reason we are looking at a complete renovation is that Balasinor as a stand-alone place is pretty far from cities and is an aloof area. In order to make it interesting and catch the people’s attention, the museum has to be unique. Moreover, the subject (dinosaur) does not fascinate everybody.”
Balasinor royal scion Aaliya Sultana Babi, who has been advocating to preserve the Dinosaur Fossil Park since 1991, feels that the idea of turning the museum into a 3D space will take away the aesthetic beauty, aside from elongating the process. Babi said, “The building is ready for the past nine years. Contrary to the CAG report stating that there were no tourists coming to the spot, the fossil park sees a big number of footfalls. Guests have left remarks in the visitor’s book that they travel all the way because it is a unique site, but complain that there is nothing to see in the museum. I am not sure if renovating it entirely to make it a 3D spot will work. Moreover, the renovation will take another couple of years. It will also lose the aesthetic value if there are no fossils and scientific findings on display. In the best interest of the site, the TCGL should keep a part of the museum for 3D renovation and utilise the rest for tourists at the earliest.”