Lonar Lake becomes Maharashtra's second Ramsar Site in 2020

Lonar Lake becomes Maharashtra's second Ramsar Site in 2020
Lonar Lake | Photo: IANS

The world's famous Lonar Lake in Buldhana district becomes second to be listed as a Ramsar Site this year from Maharashtra and is expected to give a boost to both tourism and its conservation, officials said here on Saturday.

Already a designated 'national geo-heritage site' the Ramsar Site tag will give a fillip to the conservation efforts for Lonar Lake, or the Lonar Crater.

In early-June, the site had grabbed global attention when its water turned into a bright baby pink colour owing to certain algae formations.

On November 11, the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands of International Importance announced the inclusion of Lonar Lake and the Sur Lake (Keetham Lake) in Uttar Pradesh as the two new sites from India.

"Lonar Lake (Site no. 2441), on the Deccan Plateau in Maharashtra State, is an endorheic or closed basin, almost circular in shape, formed by a meteorite impact onto the basalt bedrock. The Site includes the lake as well as escarpments, which form the crater walls, and forested zones," said its declaration notification.

"The lake is high in salinity and alkalinity, as the lack of an outflow leads to a concentration of minerals as the lake water evaporates. Specialized micro-organisms such as anaerobes, cyanobacteria and phytoplankton survive in this harsh chemical environment," the declaration adds.

Outside the lake, there is considerable diversity of plant and animal life, as springs which help feed the lake provide a source of fresh water.

There are 160 species of birds including the vulnerable Asian Woollyneck, and Common Pochard, 46 species of reptiles, and 12 species of mammals including the iconic Grey Wolf (Canis lupus).

It is believed to have been formed nearly 52,000 years ago when a meteorite weighing two million tonnes rammed into the Deccan Plateau at a speed of 90,000 kmph, though some recent research studies indicate the time period to be over half-a-million years.

It created a gaping 1.80 km wide and 150 metres deep hole, and scientists belive that the energy released duing that incident was the equivalent of a 6-megaton atom bomb explosion.

Welcoming the Ramsar proclamation, Environment & Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray said: "Lonar Lake has its own significance in tourism and geology. It will help us protect it better in the years to come."

He also shared two aerial pictures of the awe-inspiring site clicked by his dad and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

"The declaration is a 'Diwali gift' for all environment lovers. It is a matter of pride for the forest department and the entire state," said Forest Minister Sanjay Rathod.

Spread across 77.69 hectares, the Lonar Lake is part of the 365 hectares Lonar Wildlife Sanctuary, situated around 500 kms east of Mumbai.

The lake's crater rim has an average diameter of around 1.80 km, the lake diameter is 1.20 kms, the lake depth is 137 metres, and the surrounding forests have a rich variety of flora and fauna.

Though the site finds mention in various ancient Indian texts, it was first 'discovered' 197 year ago by a British officer, J. E. Alexander in 1923.

The Smithsonian Institution, the United States Geological Survey, Geological Survey of India, the University of Sagar and the Physical Research Laboratory have conducted extensive studies of the Lonar site.

Biological nitrogen fixation was discovered in this lake in 2007, while a 019 study by conducted by IIT-Bombay found that the minerals, in the lake soil, are very similar to the minerals found in moon rocks brought back during the Apollo programme.

The lake was first proposed as a Ramsar site in 2017 by the state forest department and is the second site to make it to the list after Nandur Madhameshwar Weir at Nashik, in January 2020.

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