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Location India, Madhya Pradesh
Central coordinates 77o 21.63' East  23o 13.67' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii
Area 3,072 ha
Altitude 0
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description Bhoj Wetland comprises two contiguous man-made reservoirs, the “Upper Lake” and the “Lower Lake”. The Upper Lake was created by Raja Bhoj in the 11th century by the construction of an earthen dam across the Kolans river, and the Lower Lake was constructed nearly 200 years ago, largely from the overflow of water from the Upper Lake. Both the lakes are urban waterbodies, located in the fast growing city of Bhopal, the state capital. Bhoj Wetland was designated as a Ramsar site in November 2002. The Upper Lake is surrounded by Van Vihar National Park on the south, human settlements on the east and north, and agriculture fields on the west. The Lower Lake is surrounded by human settlements on all sides. The Upper Lake is a major source of potable water for Bhopal. The Upper lake is very rich in biodiversity, particularly resident and migratory birds, macrophytes, phytoplankton, zooplankton, both natural and cultured fish species, insects, reptiles and amphibians. A management action plan has been implemented since 1995, with financial support from the Government of Japan. As part of this management plan, to follow up the impact on birds, 18-month study was undertaken in 2000-01, which helped in documenting the avifauna of the site. During this study, more than 20,000 waterbirds (A4iii criteria) were recorded. A belt of deciduous forest, with cliffs and steep contours towards the southeastern boundary comprises Van Vihar National Park. The greater part of the long western and southwestern peripheries of the site is covered with a mix of semi-desert and secondary scrub, semi-arid grassland, arable land, improved pastureland, perennial crop cultivation and forestry plantation. The extensive forestry plantation, being still young, around the lake boundaries augurs well for avian diversity in the near future.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: Nearly 179 species of birds are reported from the wetland along with the surrounding forest areas (Sharma 2002). In the peak season, the population of waterbirds exceeds 35,000 (Koustubh Sharma pers. comm. 2003). Therefore, the site qualifies A4iii criteria. Coot Fulica atra is the most numerous waterbird, followed by the Red-crested Pochard Rhodonessa rufina. In some years, its population exceeds 2,000 individuals. According to Wetlands International (2002), its 1% threshold is 1,000. The Near Threatened Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus is also seen regularly, but no nest has been found. However, a solitary juvenile was seen in the spring of 2002 (Koustubh Sharma pers. comm. 2003). Four individuals were seen, all singly. One of the most notable records is the sighting of more than 120 Sarus Crane Grus antigone. According to Wetlands International (2002), the 1% threshold of Sarus crane is 90. Therefore, this site easily qualifies A4i criteria also. Large congregations of waterfowl attract many predators such as the Pallas’s Fish Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephala and the Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus. Pallas’s Fish Eagle was seen twice in 2001.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The Upper Lake shares its boundaries on one side with Van Vihar National Park. Unique in itself, the Park supports rich populations of Chital Axis axis, Wild Boar Sus scrofa, Nilgai Boselaphus tragocamelus and Sambar Cervus unicolor, that roam wild inside the Park. Many other animals are also kept in enclosures inside the Park, which is also a Zoo. The western and southwestern parts of the site are generally devoid of much terrestrial wild fauna, apart from the occasional sighting of Golden Jackal Canis aureus and Indian Fox Vulpes bengalensis. But due to a vast stretch of shallow water, they support huge populations of birds during winter.

More than 10 species of reptiles and amphibians; more than 40 species of fish; and around 100 species of insects have been identified in the Upper Lake (Sharma 2002).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Pallas's Fish-eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Common Coot Fulica atra 2004  present  A4i  Least Concern 
Sarus Crane Antigone antigone resident  2004  present  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds unknown  2004  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high favourable low
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming past (and unlikely to return) and no longer limiting some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration low
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of surface water (agricultural use) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Pollution garbage & solid waste happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Residential and commercial development tourism and recreation areas likely in long term (beyond 4 years) majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration medium

Wetlands (inland)   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable

Some of site covered (10-49%)  Unknown  Some limited conservation initiatives are in place  low 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Bhoj Wetland Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 3,201 unknown 0  
Van Vihar National Park 445 protected area overlaps with site 0  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland   -
Artificial - aquatic   -
Grassland   -
Artificial - terrestrial   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
fisheries/aquaculture -
Notes: Aquaculture
tourism/recreation -
Notes: Tourism and recreation
water management -
Notes: Domestic water management

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Koustubh Sharma and P. K. Nandi.


Sharma, K. (2002) Avifauna Study of the Upper Lake, Bhopal. Pp. 292.

Bhoj Wetland Project, Environment Planning and Coordination Organization, Bhopal.

Wetlands International (2002) Waterbirds Population Estimates: Third Edition. Wetlands International Global Series No. 12. Wageningen, The Netherlands.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Bhoj wetland. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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