The Sambhar Lake of Rajasthan is a Saline Wetland located 80 km southwest of the city of Jaipur and 64 km northeast of Ajmer, Rajasthan. This is India’s largest saline lake. Sambhar lake was designated as a Ramsar site (recognized wetland of international importance) on March 23, 1990. It is surrounded by the historical Sambhar Lake Town. This place is the major source of Rajasthan salt production.
History of the Place
Sambhar Lake of Rajasthan was filled with many historical contexts. According to Indian mythology, this lake was aroused by Shakambhari Devi during the sixth century period. Shakambhari Devi is the Guardian goddess of Chauhan Rajput and Lord Shiva’s consort. Lord Shiva changed a dense forest into a silver plain for her services as payment.
Later, many inhabitants requested Shakambhari Devi to change the place suitable for living to transform it into a Lake. Mahabharata, the Indian epic, also mentions this place as a part of the kingdom of Vrishparva. Small-scale excavation research took place in Sambhar Lake in 1884. They found a lot of Ancient Sculpture Art that resembles Buddhism.
Things discovered on the excavation are now safely placed at Albert Hall Museum are as follows:
- Terracotta Structures
- Terracotta coins and steals
- Decorated discs
- Terracotta figurines
Access to the Wetland
Sambhar Lake was a widely known tourist spot. Many movies (for example, Veer, Highway, PK) and music videos are filmed here.
There are two main airports, Jaipur International Airport and Kishangarh Airport. If you want to reach this place via train transport, you can take a train from your residency to Sambhar Lake Town Railway Station or Phulera Junction Railway Station. Public bus transport is also available there via Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation.
Topography of Area
The latitude and longitude of Sambhar Lake coordinates are 26°58′N 75°05′E. The maximum length of this place is 35.5 kilometers, while its maximum width is 3 to 11 k.m.The average depth of this lake is 2.0 to 9.8 ft.
The climate of the region is tropical monsoonal. Annual average rainfall ranges from 550 to 600 mm. The area experiences rain mostly from July to September. The average yearly temperature of the area is 23℃. The temperature of this lake during summertime is 40-45°C. The temperature during the winter season is 8-10°C.
Geology of Area
The lake has a 5,700 square km catchment area. The long dam of the Sambhar Lake is made of sandstone.
Sambhar lake water is salty. The reason that leads to this much level of saltiness is that it is part of an endorheic basin.
The endorheic basin is a lake type that is a closed drainage basin with no outflow of water. Since there is no outflow of water in a water body, all the salts received by the water body get collected, and the water becomes saltier.
Sambhar lake is suited in a dry region of Rajasthan in which summer temperatures get very high. Unlike water, salts don’t evaporate and remain on the surface.
Hydrology of the Land
In Sambhar Lake, there are two mainstream flows. They are the Mendham–the stream that flows north to south, and the Rupangar-the stream that flows south to north. The water fed into the Sambhar Lake from the following rivers:
The vegetation existing in the catchment area is generally xerophytic type. Xerophytic plants can live with the little liquid water level like desert areas, snow regions, or arctic. They can easily survive and are adaptable to the changing environment.
The vegetation surrounding Sambhar Lake, including the watershed zone, is thorn scrub, typical of arid and semi-arid areas. This vegetal cover exists having sparse growth of trees on sandy plains dominated by Acacia nilotica, Acacia Senegal, Prosopis cineraria, Capparis decidua, Salvadora persica, Salvadora oleoides, and so on.
The Aravalli side of the lake is covered with low growth of Anogeissus pendula, Boswellia serrata, and Euphorbia sp. and undergrowth of various shrubs species.
A list of trees, shrubs, grasses, and herbs is reported. However, succulent halophytes such as Salsola sp. and Suaeda sp. are found flourishing on the moist margins of the lake.
Widely visible birds on Sambhar Lake are flamingoes, pelicans, waterfowls.
In 2019, almost 22,000 migratory birds died at the lake due to avian botulism, a neuromuscular illness. Before 2020’s winter season, the Rajasthan government decided to build temporary shelters for migratory birds near the lake.
Islands in the Lake
Devayani Kund, also known as the little Pushkar, is a small island near the lake area. Devayani Kund is one of the several freshwater bodies surrounding Sambhar Lake.
The place was mentioned in the epic Mahabharata as the site where Devayani, daughter of the guru of demons, Sukracharya, married King Yayati.
Economic Evaluation of the Lake’s Resources
Sambhar Lake is also called the Salt Lake of Rajasthan. This lake provides 196,000 tonnes of clean salt every year, which is around 9% of India’s salt production. It is the source of most of Rajasthan’s salt production.
The specialized algae and bacteria growing in the lake provide striking watercolors and support the lake ecology that, in turn, sustains the migrating waterfowl.
Deterioration of the Lake Environment
Illegal borewells severely harm the ecology of the salt lake. The lake also suffers from reducing water level, waterfowl habitat degradation, and loss of agricultural land.
Groundwater exploitation is the biggest threat to the lake. Not having a proper Ecosystem Management Vehicle Transportation around the area is also a concern.
Due to climate change, there is a change in the hydrological pattern of Sambhar Lake. Humans started to extract a large quantity of water from the surface for various reasons starting from business to agriculture. The rainwater harvesting structure in the flow path of the rivers damaged the lake.
Due to insufficient water levels, the population of migratory birds started to decrease. Many birds also died because of avian botulism.
Pollution from the surrounding towns, villages and siltation, soil salinization, and sewage discharge from the town are major problems confronting the wetland.
Almost 30% of Sambar Lake’s area has been lost to mining and illegal pan salt encroachment.
The Rajasthan Tourism Department has put Sambhar Lake high on its list of development projects. It plans to construct a Festival Ground, Cultural Centre, RTDC Hotel, Shopping Area in the region.
An expert study by a research team of the Central University of Rajasthan’s School of Earth Sciences has announced that the Sambhar Lake ecology is facing serious threats such as the shrinking of the lake due to the degradation of soil and water quality, a diminishing population of migratory birds, and so on.
Therefore, the research team has recommended mandatory action to restore the lake’s ecosystem for conserving the birds and biodiversity, and salt production.