Hill heavy!

What hap­pens when a rare ge­o­log­i­cal site is squeezed for space

Down to Earth - - SCIENCE - SHREESHAN VENKATESH |

Ione of the rarest res­i­den­tial ad­dressT IS es of the world. To re­side be­side the Gil­bert Hill in Mum­bai’s And­heri means be­ing a wit­ness to a ge­o­log­i­cal rar­ity.The hill is one of the world’s only two basalt mono­liths,which were squeezed out of the Earth some 65 mil­lion years ago in molten form. The other one is Devil’s Peak in Wy­oming in the US.

But off late, the lucky res­i­dents are not feel­ing so pos­ses­sive about its su­perla­tive. Res­i­dents in the neigh­bour­hood of Gil­bert Hill have been liv­ing in a state of con­stant un­ease as chunks of rocks tum­ble down at eerie reg­u­lar­ity from the rock­face of the hill. “Ev­ery year,rocks fall from the top,es­pe­cially dur­ing the mon­soon,” says Mo­hammed Qasim,a lo­cal res­i­dent.In June this year,two per­sons were crit­i­cally in­jured as chunks of the hill struck them.The ge­o­log­i­cal su­perla- tive is sur­rounded by in­creas­ing res­i­den­tial set­tle­ments. Over the last few years, the area sur­round­ing the hill has wit­nessed re­peated in­stances of peo­ple get­ting killed, in­jured, and property be­ing dam­aged due to the un­pre­dictable rock­falls.

On the other hand,con­ser­va­tion­ists and ge­ol­o­gists are wor­ried that Gil­bert Hill may be wiped out in the fu­ture, both due to con­stant hu­man en­croach­ments as well as from lack of con­ser­va­tion.The 61-me­tre tall mono­lith is made up of tightly-packed hexag­o­nal col­umns of basalt that stretch from the bot­tom to the top.The for­ma­tions are rich from the per­spec­tive of ge­o­log­i­cal in­for­ma­tion about the Earth’s evo­lu­tion.

While Devil’s Peak is a cor­doned­off na­tional park area and a tourist at­trac­tion, Gil­bert Hill is sur­rounded by a vast ex­panse of shanty set­tle­ments, slums and high-rise

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