Tsomoriri lake in the Changthang province of Ladakh is one of the most elegant, peaceful, and sacred (for Ladakh) high altitude lakes in India. This lake has an altitude of 14,836 ft. and is the largest high-altitude lake in India that is entirely in the Indian Territory. This lake is about 7 kilometers wide at its broadest point and about 19 kilometers long.
Being part of the wetland reserve under the Ramsar site, it is known as Tsomoriri Wetland Conservation Reserve. Nobody is allowed to construct buildings or houses near the bank of the lake. Tsomoriri of Ladakh is the highest Ramsar site in the world.
The Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve protects the lake surrounding area. It is a twin to the Pangong Lake.
History of the Place
Tso Moriri or Lake Moriri or “Mountain Lake”, is a lake in the Changthang Plateau in Ladakh in Northern India.
Tsomoriri is a unique example of a natural wetland type in the Trans-Himalayan biogeographic region. It was formed by the folding of the Himalayas. On August 19, 2002, the lake was declared part of the Ramsar Wetland.
Access to the Tsomoriri Lake
Tso Moriri lake is located at a distance of 213 km from Leh town, the capital of Ladakh. The nearest airport is Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport, Leh. The closest railway station is Jammu Tawi. Most people take the general route to Tso Moriri to visit this ever-beautiful lake in Ladakh.
Accessibility to the lake is primarily limited to the summer season, though Karzok on the northwest shore and the military facilities on the eastern shores have year-round habitation. Tso Moriri remains mostly frozen from January to March, extremely cold conditions with no options to stay around the lake. It starts to melt in April and starts transforming into the beautiful multi shades of blue colors off the shores.
Topography of Area
Tsomoriri of Ladakh is the highest altitude (4,522 m) lake within the Ladakh Trans Himalayan biogeographic region. The maximum length of this lake is 19 kilometers, while its maximum width is 3Km. The lake’s surface area is 33,000 acres.
The maximum depth of the lake is 344 ft. The surface elevation of the Tsomoriri lake, meanwhile, is 4,522 m. Tsomoriri lake is covered by mountains rising over 20,000 ft, including Mentok Kangri and Lungser Kangri.
Geology of Area
Geologically, the lake is in Ordovician rock. This type of lake was researched to be in the Paleozoic era. The lake coordinates are at 32°54′N 78°18′E of latitude and longitude. Aridity and cold desert conditions persist in the lake region. Tsomoriri lake summer temperature calculated to be 0° to 30 °C (32° to 86 °F). During the winter season, the temperature is recorded to be−10° and −40 °C (14° to -40 °F).
Hydrology of the Land
Water is spread around an area of 120 km2. The Tsomoriri Lake currently has no outlet. The water at these lakes is brackish.
The lake is fed by springs and ice melt from the adjacent mountains. Water enters this via two major stream systems. The first stream enters from the north while the other stream enters from the south.
Tsomoriri lake is oligotrophic, and its waters are alkaline. An ecosystem is named oligotrophic when it produces little to sustain life.
A wide variety of flora and fauna are found in the region. The deeper part of the lake has no vegetation.
Among the flora that can be found are Caragana and Astragalus species, Potamogeton species, several species of Carex, Primula (low growing herb), and Pedicularis(parasitic plant), common species of Juncus thomsonii and Leontopodium so, Phytoplankton species of Oocystis, and specimens of the diatom Cyclotella.
Birds are seen around this place are Black-necked cranes (Grus nigricollis), Bar-headed geese (Anser indicus), Brown-headed gulls (Larus brunnicephalus), Great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus), Ferruginous pochard, and Black-necked grebe (Podiceps nigricollis).
Large carnivores such as snow leopard (Uncia uncia) and The Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus chanco) can also be found in the area.
Several mammals such as the Tibetan gazelle, Procapra picticaudata, Goa antelope (threatened), Eurasian lynx, Nayan Ovis ammon Hodgson, Bharal (Pseudois your) Himalayan blue shep, Tibetan Ass (Kiang) or Equus kiang, endemic to the Tibetan Plateau, and Great Tibetan Sheep can also be seen in the area.
Large numbers of one species of marmot called Marmota himpistolsin can be seen on the hill slopes surrounding the lake and along the roadsides. There are also one species of hare called Lepus pistols, and one species of vole called Alticola roylei.
Islands in the Lake
This valley contains the Nuro Sumdo wetlands, a boggy area that mostly drains Pare Chu. It contains a catchment area of 20 km2. According to the classification of the Himalayan lakes, Tsomoriri falls under the third of the four groups. The four groups of the lake are Glacial Lake, Structural Lake, Remnant lake, and Natural damned lake.
Economic Evaluation of the Lake’s Resources
May, June, July, and August are the peak tourist season. The lake is held sacred by the local community and not used. A couple of years back, tour operators held a ‘regatta’ in which boating etc., was organized.
The barley fields at Korzok are considered to be the highest cultivated land in the world. The construction of a rough road going through the marshes along the lake has opened up this remote basin to tourism. It attracts a large number of foreign and local tourists, but compared to Pangong Tso, it gets less number of tourists.
Deterioration of the Lake Environment
With the construction of an additional road near the lake, Jeep Safari is the biggest threat to Tsomoriri lake. This safari adventure reportedly chases wildlife in the area, especially kiang. They also closely approach the breeding ground.
The breeding of the avifauna has been affected by the large number of tourists visiting the lake. There is also a lack of a proper garbage disposal facility in the area. Pasture degradation affects the wildlife, mainly the herbivores. Dogs kept by the people who live near the lake are known to attack the cranes and destroy their eggs.
There is also a lack of attention paid by the government to river management.
Nature Interpretation Centre at “Hall of Fame” in Leh was set up by the Indian Army to support this area. Frequent education and awareness Programmes for various target groups were conducted. The introduction of the Eco-Tourism Certification scheme in Ladakh was also implemented. Tsomoriri Conservation Trust has been set up.
Twenty Nature Club has been registered in different schools in Leh. Regulation in consultation with local community Vehicular traffic flow and parking has been restructured with restriction of camping sites around the lake.
The Indo-Tibetan Border Patrol (ITBP), tour operators, and local population have initiated regular garbage cleanup operations. Korzok community living around the lake has voluntarily built traditional and social fencing around the wetland to protect breeding and feeding grounds from vehicular traffic.