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TECTONIC TRENDS IN SURMA BASIN AND POSSIBLE GENESIS OF THE FOLDED BELT
By SUJIT DASGUPTA
Geological Survey of 1ndia (With Plate 6.1)
Based on the study of aerial photographs and Landsat imagery, a tectonic map of the Surma basin has been compiled. The broad structural features of the Mio-Pliocene Surma folds, and the regional tectonic setup, namely the Paleogene Dauki fault, have been discussed. Nature of the Surma folds and the tectonic framework of the basin show similarity with the Jura folds of the Alpine Orogen. This leads to a proposition of analogous evolution for the Jura and Surma folds that are epidermal in nature suggesting a decollement origin for the Surma folds.
The folded belt of Surma Valley, Tripura-Mizo hills, Chittagong hill tracts and coastal Burma belongs to a single stratigraphic-tectonic unit, hereafter described as folds of the ‘Surnia Basin’. The Miocene Surma basin is now represented by a series of anticline ridges and synclinal valleys running for several kilometers in an overall northsouth trending arcuate belt having a convexity towards the west. The Surma group of rocks are exposed all along this belt from about 20°N latitude to 25 °N latitude, running for about 550 km, from Cachar hills in the north to the northern fringe of Ramri Islands in the south. The large scale regional folds of the Surma basin are related to the Indo-Burma orogen forming an outer arc of foreland folding. Towards the north, the basin is bordered by the Dauki fault and the Barail range (North Cachar hills); the eastern contact is probably of the nature of thrust with Barail (Oligocene) rocks of Mizo hills. In the north-west the basin extends upto the West BengalBangladesh border and is probably limited by the basement fault running through Patnitola, Jaipurhat, Palasbari and Pirgacha in northern Bangladesh (Farah, 1973). Surface folds north of 23°N latitude is limited by 91 °E longitude and further south, the fold belt extends up to the coast of Bay of Bengal. Generally, it is agreed that the folded belt in the west is probably limited by the Barisal- Chandpur gravity (basement) high (Murthy et al, 1971).
Nowhere within the basin is crystalline basement exposed. The nearest exposed basement is towards the north in the Shillong Plateau and Mikir hills. From geophysical evidence, Evans (1964) postulated that the basement is at a depth of about 13000 meters close to the Tripura-Bangladesh border. Further west in Bagura district of Bangladesh, west of Jamuna river, in the Kuchma drillings, crystalline basement has been encountered at shallow depth within 2,200 meters, below the Gangetic alluvium and underlying Tertiary and Mesozoic strata (Brown and Dey, 1975). Structural framework of this area has been studied by Nandy (1972), Sarkar and Nandy (1974), Ganju (1975) and Ganguly (1975). All are in favour of vertical tectonics for the evolution of this fold belt. Recently aerial photographs of Tripura-Mizoram area and Landsat imagery of part of the Surma basin have been studied. From this study and field knowledge of the author, a tectonic map of the basin has been compiled (Plate 6.1) showing the trend of fold axes and the major transverse lineaments. Some of the diagnostic structural features of this folded Neogene sedimentaries are discussed below: 1. The folding in Surma region forms a broad arc, convex towards the west following the curvature of the Indo-Burma Orogen.
2. In coastal Burma and Chittagong hill tracts the fold axes trend NNW-SSW; the trend being almost N-S in the Tripura-Mizo hills, wherefrom the trend changes to become NNESSW to NE-SW in the Cachar valley. Further north, in the vicinity of the Dauki fault there are two E-W trending anticlines, the Sylhet and Chhatak structures. 3. The folded zone is wider in the central part in comparison to the southern part. The central part shows a large number of anticline ridges that are less in the south. 4. Many of the anticlines split to form two anticlinal ridges with sub-parallel axial trends. In some cases they rejoin to form elliptical synclinal valley within them. 5. Structural complexity increases from west to east i.e. towards the main orogen. In the east, the outcrop patterns have been made complicate by thrust and transverse faults, while in the west, in Bangladesh and in western Tripura, the folds are open showing simple outcrop patterns. 6. All along the outer fringe i.e., along the western and northwestern margin, folds are embryonic with short axial continuity and display an en- echelon pattern, showing drag like bending of the folds. 7. Most of the folds are doubly plunging with low regional plunge. 8. Axial culminations and depressions are common feature, particularly among the longer folds.
9. Besides the asymmetrical and overturned folds, a large number of box- shaped anticlines have been recognised. 10. Synclines occurring in the central part, in eastern Tripura and western Mizoram, have steep flanks with higher plunge of about 20° forming ‘V’-shaped outcrop patterns. 11. Most of the transverse faults trend either NESW to ENE-WSW or NW-SE. The most prominent transverse fault, in, between .Aizawl and Lunglei, Mizoram, is the NW-SE trending ‘Mat river fault’. Evidence for dextral movement along this fault has been recorded (Benerjee et al, 1976).
12. Longitudinal faults, running parallel to the fold axis, are of the nature of moderate to high angle thrust and often swerve following the curvature of the folded rocks. 13. Areas of axial depressions and culminations and areas where sudden change in trend of fold axes occur, are commonly traversed by NE-SW trending transverse fracture lineaments. 14. Tear and thrust faults with trends parallel to the Dauki fault have been encountered in Sylhet and Chhatak anticlines. A number of NE- SW trending transverse faults have resulted in the formation of fault blocks in the Chhatak structure. There are indications of WNW-ESE trending thrust faults on the northern flank of the Chhatak structure (Khan and Azad, 1963). Time tectonic events in areas limiting the Surma Basin are as follows: 1. The Dauki fault system in the north was considered by Evans (1964) to be of the nature of strike-slip fault with shear movement of about 250 km from west to east. Now it is argued that this lineament displays clear evidence of vertical movement from Cretaceous onwards. The fault also changes its character from west to east from high angle reverse to vertical to monocline (Chakraborty, 1972) 2. The main phase of evolution of the Indo-Burma Orogen seems to have taken place during late Oligocene, giving rise to the Miocene Surma basin in the west and subsequently the Oligocene Barails were thrust over the Miocene Surmas. 3. Towards the west the fold movement is absorbed and limited by the submerged BarisalChandpur basement high.
The above three boundary conditions are responsible for the development of the Surma basin and subsequent folding. During Pliocene, fold movement took place in the Surma basin and proceeded progressively westwards during the waning phase of the Indo-Burma orogenic episode. The Surma sediments were folded under
a stress field directed from the east superimposed on a pre-existing stress field, i.e., the Paleogene block movement along the east-west trending Dauki fault system involving the crystalline basement. Thus the Surma tectonic event found some inhomogeneities in the basin floor that may have guided the Pliocene folds and faults. This is more pronounced towards the north of the basin where there are E-W trending faults associated with the Sylhet and Chhatak structures. Mention may also be made of the drags and axial bends, towards the NE along the latitude of Silchar which probably indicates some sort of shear movement along the EW trending faults. Two different aspects of the Surma tectonics viz., (a) some observed structural features within the Surma basin and (b) regional time tectonic set-up for its evolution, clearly bring out certain similarities, of the Surma folds with the Jura folds of the Swiss Alps (Pierce, 1966). This prompts to suggest similar evolution of these two belts. Both the fold belts take a similar position—the Surma folds being associated with the Indo-Burma orogen and the Jura with Alpine orogen, both representing belt of foreland folding. Fold geometry both in plan and section and nature of thrust and transverse faults are similar in many respects for both the belts. Major folding phase in the Surma is Pliocene while folding phase of the Jura has been dated as late Pontian (Laubscher, 1972). The Black forest crystalline mass and the Rhine graben, north of Jura mountain takes a similar position both in space and time with the Dauki lineament along which block movement has taken place involving the crystalline basement along with the overlying sedimentaries. The Rhine graben tectonics and the block movement along the Shillong Plateau are both essentially Paleogene events and are responsible for the inhomogeneities that gave rise to locus of instabilities for the development of subsequent Surma and the Jura folds (Laubscher, 1977). Though it is rather premature to suggest a tectonic model based on evidence discussed above, yet from the astonishing similarities with the Jun folds it is tempting to suggest a decollement origin for the Surma folds implying an epidermal nature with little or no involvement of the basement for the development of the fold belt. Saline springs have been reported from many areas within this tectonic province, particularly associated with zones of
dislocation and steeply dipping beds. Source for saline springs may be attributed to some hidden salt bed that acted as a passive surface for the development of the epidermal folds. Further work sustained by surface ‘and subsurface data will throw more light on its origin. Acknowledgements Shri Kalyan Sarkar, Geologist (Jr), GSI, and the author jointly studied the aerial photographs and satellite imageries of this area. Acknowledgement is due to S/Shri K.V. Krishnamurthy, Director and D.R. Nandy, Geologist (Sr.), GSI for going through the manuscript and offering suggestion for its modification. References BANERJEE, S.P., SARKAR, K AND DASGUPTA, S., 1976: Geological mapping in Serchhip-Thenzawl area, Mizoram. Unpublished GSI Report. BROWN, C AND DEY, A. K., 1975: The mineral and nuclear fuels of the Indian subcontinent and Burma. Oxford University Press, Delhi. CHAKRARORTY, S., 1972: The Dauki lineament along the southern part of the Meghalaya Plateau. Geol. Surv. Misc. Pub., 31. EVANS, P., 1964: Tectonic Frarnework of Assam. Jour. Geol. Soc. India, 5. FARAH, A., 1973: Example of application of geophysical techniques is determining go1ogical environment of coal deposit. Bull. Geol. Soc. America., 84, 1435- 44. KHAN, A.H. AND AZAD, J., 1963: Geology of Pakistan gas fieIds. UNECAFE, Proc. 2nd Symp. Dev. Petro. Resources, 1, 275-82. GANGULY, S., 1975: Tectonic evolution of the Mizo hills. Bull. Geol. Min. Met. Soc. India, 48. GANJU J.L., 1975: Geology of Mizorarn. Bull. Geol. Min. Met. Soc. India, 48. LAUBSCHER, H.P., 1972: Some overall aspects of Jura dynamics. Am. Jour. Sci.., 272, 293-304. LAUBSCHER, H.P., 1977: Fold development in Jura. Tectonophysics, 37, 337.362. MURTHY, M.V.N., NANDY, D.R. AND CKAKRABORTY, C., 1971: A note to accompany the tectonic map of northeastern India and adjoining areas. Geol. Surv. India, Misc. Pub 24 (II).
NANDY, D.R., 1972: Style of folding in the MioPliocene of Tripura-Mizoram area and possible role of basement dislocation fabric. Geol. Surv. India Misc. Pub., 31
PIERCE, W.G, 1966: Jura tectonics as a decollement.. Bull. Geol. Soc. Am., 77, 1265-1276. SARKAR, K. AND NANDY, D.R. 1974: Structures and tectonics of Tripura-Mizoram area. Geol.Surv. India, Misc. Pub. 34 (I)
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