Lakes in India
There are about 500,000 lakes on Earth, storing volume of water equaling 103,000 cub. km. Most of the world's water lakes are found in North America (25%), Africa (30%) and Asia (20%). Important lakes of India are :
The Kashmir valley is gifted with exotic natural scenic beauty of its landscape and water bodies, which have given it the sobriquet “paradise on the earth”. These water bodies are of great ecological and socio-economic significance. The Dal Lake with its multi-faceted eco-system and grandeur has been inviting the attention of national and international tourists.
Dal Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes of India and is the second largest in the J&K state. Being located in the heart of the Srinagar City (latitude 34°18’N, longitude 74°91’E, average altitude of 1,583 m), Dal can be considered to be an urban lake. Srinagar is the summer capital of J&K state. During winters when the temperature may fall to as low as -11°C, the top crust of the lake freezes. Early spring and summers are the wet periods when large rainfall occurs; the average annual rainfall at this place is 655 mm. It is in this season that the snow melts in the higher catchment which results in high discharge in Dachigam and Dara Nallah which feed water into the lake. The maximum depth of the lake is reported to be in the range of 6 to 9 m. The maximum area of the Dal Lake has been estimated to be 24 sq. km out of which open water area is around 15.42 sq. km.
The Dal Lake basin can be classified into five basins, namely, 1. Nehru Park Basin, 2. Nishat Basin, 3. Hazratbal Basin, 4. Nagin Basin, and 5. Brari Nambal Basin. All the basins are interconnected with navigation routes in the shape of intertwined waterways.
The Surinsar Lake is situated about 40 km to the north east of Jammu city at an elevation of 605 m above mean sea level and lies at 75º 02’ 30’ east longitude and 32º 46’ 30 north latitude. It is a fine picturesque sweet water lake with a circumference of 2.496 km. The maximum length, breadth and depth of the lake are 888 m, 444 m and 24.05 m respectively. The water spread of the lake varies from 27.92 to 29.14 hectares. The water level of the lake oscillates by about 1.20 m and touches its peak during August. The excess water flows towards the western side of the lake and goes into a channel lying by its side
The Mansar Lake is located 55 km east of Jammu at a latitude of 32o 41’ N and longitude of 75o 05’ E, 666 m. above mean sea level. The basin area of the lake is 1.67 km2. The maximum length and width of the lake is 1,204 m and 645 m respectively. The annual average rainfall in the catchment area of the lake is 1,500 mm. The total volume of lake water is 12.37 Mm3. The maximum depth of water in the lake is 38.25 m. The slope of the lake in between 0.0-5.75 m depth is 0.21 m/m, 5.57-10.75 m depth is 0.30 m/m (maximum) and 35.75-38.25 m depth is 0.04 m/m The Lake is fed by rainfall and groundwater.
Khajjiar Lake and its surroundings are one of the most picturesque saucer shaped plateaus and a tourist attraction. The watershed is located at a height of 1,940 m in a valley between Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges of the Himalayas. The watershed lies at latitude of 32.5º N and longitude of 76.1º E. The size of the lake is not large and is more or less like a pond of about 60 to 80 m radius. The green pastures surrounding the lake are approximately 1.5 km long and 1.0 km wide. The lake region experiences a moist temperature climate. Precipitation is in the form of snow during January to March and rain during the south-west monsoon. The annual average precipitation is 1.2 m. The soils are sandy loam in the meadow part, while under the forest they are highly organic with humus and litter. The soil thickness varies from 30 to 40 cm.
The Nainital Lake is situated at an altitude of 1,937 m above sea level and is 1,433 m long and 423 m broad at its widest. The total surface area is about 4.65 ha and the volume is approximately 8.33 MCM. The catchment area of the lake is 3.6 km2 ranging in height from 1,937 m to 2,600 m. The mean hillslope of the area is 19º where large part being confined to the slope group of 20º to 25º and the maximum slope reaching 47º to 49º. The average slope of the snow view Sherka Danda ridge is 18º, varying between 5º to 35º. At many places, the slopes exhibit convex bulges resulting from continuing creep movement. The slopes are locally broken by scarps and fringed at the base by a succession of debris cones and fans. The bathymetric study reveals that the lake consists of two V-shaped basins, one in the north and the other in the south with maximum depths of 27.3 m and 25.5 m respectively. The depth of lake at the dividing ridge is 8.5 m. An outlet for draining out excess water is situated at the north-eastern end. The shoreline is steep, except at a few places where the drains have deposited silt and debris.
The annual rainfall is high in the catchment area of the lake and varies between 2,245 mm to 2,480 mm. The average monthly rainfall is 189 mm with a maximum of about 624 mm in August and a minimum of about 2.4 mm in March. Besides rainfall, there are occasional snowfalls in and around the lake catchment during the winter, varying between 200 mm to 600 mm in recent years.
A barrage was constructed in 1952 at Harike, at the confluence of Beas and Sutlej rivers at about 60 km from Ferozpur, Punjab. Harike Lake came into being as a result of the construction of this barrage. The lake is located at latitude of 31o 10’ N and longitude of 74o 56’ E, 210 m above mean sea level. In the beginning, the lake had water spread area of 41 sq. km. It is one of the six most important wetlands in the country. Over the time, this lake began attracting migratory birds and became famous. However, later on, the fast spreading hyacinth plants have reduced the open water area to a mere 28 sq. km, leaving little space for migratory birds. Growth of hyacinths in the Harike wetland has pushed it to the brink of an ecological disaster. About 70% of the lake water surface is covered with water hyacinth. The major problems, which are facing by the lake is acute soil erosion and silting. However, a turn around began with the launch of “Operation Sahyog”, initiated jointly by the Punjab Government and the Indian Army. World Wildlife Fund provided its expertise to restore the lake to its former glory.
During the monsoon period, enormous quantity of water flows out of Harike barrage. In the decade (1992-2002), the quantum of outflow water from Harike barrage varied from 765 MCM to 11,735 MCM.
Loktak Lake is situated 38 km south of Imphal city, the capital of Manipur State. The Manipur State has two distinct river basins, namely the Barak basin and the Manipur basin. The Manipur River arises in the north at Karong. Its tributaries are the Iril River, the Thoubal River, the Sekmai River, and the Khuga River. Manipur River has been regulated by two barrages for irrigation and hydropower. The Imphal barrage downstream of Lilong regulates the flow to irrigate about 6,000 ha area. The second barrage at Ithai diverts the river flow into the Loktak Lake for lift irrigation and a hydropower project.
Loktak Lake had vast area of 2,000 km2 in 1950 that reduced to 495 km2 in 1971 and 289 km2 in 1995. The maximum depth of lake has reduced from 29 m in 1950 to about 20 m in 1980. The lake is located between longitudes 930 46' & 930 55' E and latitudes 240 25' &, 240 42' N. It is a shallow water lake, the depth of which during dry season ranges between 0.5 m to 1.5 m. Main water body of the lake is surrounded by shallow water stagnating over marshy/swampy land on 11 sides. About 40% of the lake surface area is covered by different types of weeds both floating and submerged. Southern portion of Loktak Lake (south of Thanga, Ithing and Sendra islands/hills) forms the Keibul Lamjao National Park and is the only floating wildlife sanctuary in the world. It is composed of a continuous mass of floating phumdi occupying an area of 40 sq. km. The park is the only natural habitat of the most endangered mammal, the brow-antlered deer (Cervus eldi eldi).
Loktak Lake basin has a direct catchment area of 980 sq. km and indirect catchment of 7,157 sq. km. Out of the direct catchment area, 430 sq. km is under paddy cultivation, 150 sq. km under habitation/ settlement, and 400 sq. km under forest. The direct catchment area in the hills covers 96 hill villages. The elevation varies from 780 m at the foothills adjoining the central valley to about 2,068 m above mean sea level at peak. A number of streams originate from the hill ranges immediately to the west of the lake and these streams flow directly into Loktak Lake.
Chilika is the largest brackish water lagoon that sprawls along the east
coast of India in the Mahanadi delta. It is a tidal lagoon created by a
beach barrier berm that developed by the accretion of the coastal
sediments following the stabilization of sea levels about 3,000 to 4,000
years ago. The pear shaped lagoon has a maximum length of 64 km and an
average width of 20 km. The water depth generally fluctuates between 50
cm and 3.7 m. The water-spread area of the Lagoon varies between 906 and
1,105 sq. km. A 35 km long, narrow outer channel connects the main
lagoon to the Bay of Bengal, near the village Motto. The mouth
connecting the channel to the sea is close to the northeastern end of
the Lagoon. High tide near this inlet mouth drives in salt water through
the channel during the dry months from December to June. With the onset
of the rains, the rivers falling into the northern zone bring in fresh
water currents that gradually push the seawater out. As a result of
these, the inlet mouth constantly changes its position. The inlet
channel is connected with Chilika at Magarmukh. The other connection
with the Bay of Bengal is through Palur Canal on the southeastern side.
Several islands are located in the Lagoon covering an area of 223 sq.
km, which include hills situated both inside and around the lagoon.
The total catchment area of the lagoon is 4,300 sq. km out of which 3,212 sq. km (74%) lies in Eastern Ghats and 1,088 sq. km (26%) in Mahanadi River system. About 30% of the catchment area is under degraded forest. The total annual fresh water inflow into the lagoon by surface has been estimated at 1760 MCM. Direct precipitation to the Lagoon contributes 870 MCM of water. The total evaporation loss from the lagoon has been estimated at 1,286 MCM. Chilika Development Authority has estimated that 53 rivulets that drain in Chilika deposit about 365,000 tons of silt; the maximum contribution (89%) being from Mahanadi river system.
Pushkar is a famous pilgrimage center of Rajasthan. It is one of the few places on the Earth where Lord Brahma (the creator of the universe) is worshipped. The city has lent its name to the lake that lies inside it. In ancient times, the lake had a waterspread of over 71 bighas. However, of late, the Pushkar Lake is dying due to a variely of reasons. On an average the lake attracts 5,000 pilgrims daily. People from all over the country converge here to wash off their sins and immerse the ashes of their dead. The depth of water has plunged to just 1.5 m from a depth of 9 m observed in the late nineteen eighties. The condition of the depth lake is so bad that it can no longer sustain life. In the recent past, fish, weighing five to twenty kilograms, have died in the viscous brown depths of the lake due to the lack of oxygen.
The scenic Kolleru Lake, situated in the Krishna and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh, 50 km east of Vijaywada at latitude of 16o 30’ N and longitude of 81o 15’ E , 0-5 m above mean sea level, is spread over an area of more than 900 sq. km. The lake area is about 1090 km2 at the time of maximum flooding. The lake has a maximum depth of more than 3.5 m when full during the rainy season and a minimum depth of 1 m during summer. Kolleru Lake is one of the largest freshwater inland lakes in the world and is one of the largest bird sanctuaries, home to nearly 188 species of birds. It is also the world's largest natural freshwater fish producer – the produce is about 30,000 tonnes per year. The sedimentation in the lake is high. The lake bed is rising at 2.5 cm/year.
Udhagamandalam and Kodaikanal Lakes
Due to growing human activity in the hilly regions and associated functions, such as intensive agriculture, animal husbandry and opening of commercial establishments, the Udhagamandalam (Ooty) and the Kodaikanal (Kodai) Lakes have come under enormous pressure. The Ooty Lake is an artificial lake which was constructed by John Sullivan, the first collector of Ooty. Originally it was intended to be an irrigation tank but during the years 1823-1825, it was dredged and enlarged. This lake is a big tourist attraction and supports water-based recreation. Over the years, increasing siltation and eutrophication have inflicted enormous damage to the lakes.
Other Lakes in India
Besides the lake described above, there are many small and big lakes in the country. Some other important lakes are described in Table below
Salient features of some of the important lakes in India.
Note: L = Length; B = Breadth; D : Depth; A = Lake Area; CA = Catchment Area.
Lakes in the Uttaranchal State