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Location India, Jammu & Kashmir
Central coordinates 78o 35.00' East  33o 50.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A3
Area 65,000 ha
Altitude 0
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description Pangong Tso is a long, narrow, brackish lake spanning the Indian/ Chinese border, in a valley in the upper drainage basin of the Indus river, at the east end of the Karakoram Range. Only the westernmost one-third of the lake lies in Indian territory. It is a chain of four interconnecting lakes, formed by natural damming of the valley. Five rivers fed by perennial springs and snowmelt flow into the Indian portion of the lake. The runoff from the west end of the lake flows northwest into the Shyok river, a tributary of the Indus. There are some brackish to saline marshes near the western end, with adjacent wet meadows. The lake has been suggested as a Ramsar site due to its biological, cultural and geological values (Chatterjee et al. 2002). It is the largest and most brackish wetland in the cold desert ecosystem of the Trans-Himalaya. A fossil freshwater mollusc Lymnea auricularia was discovered in ancient lacustrine clay deposits above the present level of lake, providing evidence that earlier it was a freshwater lake (Sharma 2000). Due to its extreme salinity, Pangong Tso does not have any vegetation in the deeper parts, but at the margins and marshy areas, typical, steppe vegetation is seen. Sedges and grasses are found towards the northern and eastern sides. The surrounding plateau and hills support low thorn scrub and perennial herbs.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis breeding  2004  present  A1, A3  Vulnerable 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland)   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature conservation and research
rangeland/pastureland -
Notes: Grazing
tourism/recreation -
Notes: Tourism

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Otto Pfister, Rashid Raza, S. A. Hussain and Bivash Pandav.


Chatterjee, A., Chandan, P., Gautam, P. and Droz, B. H. (2002) High Altitude Wetlands of Ladakh: A Conservation Initiative. WWF-India, New Delhi. Pp. 38.

Pfister, O. (1998) Breeding ecology and conservation of the Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) in Ladakh/India. Thesis, University of Hull, Hull, UK.

Pfister, O. (2001) Birds recorded during visits to Ladakh, India, from 1994 to 1997. Forktail 17: 81-90.

Sharma, V. P. (2000) Geology of the Ladakh Region, J&K State with special reference to High Altitude Lakes. Unpublished. Paper presented at National Consultation Workshop: Conservation of High Altitude Wetlands. WWF-India, Leh.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Pangong Tso. Downloaded from on 01/11/2014

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