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Location India, Rajasthan
Central coordinates 75o 4.00' East  26o 57.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii
Area 19,000 ha
Altitude 0
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society



Site description Sambhar is a large, shallow saline lake, only about 3 m at its deepest. The maximum length of the lake basin is 22.5 km, while the width ranges from 3.2 km to 11.2 km. The lake bed is almost flat. The lake basin is divided into two unequal parts by a 5.16 km long dam between the settlements of Jhapok to the south and Gudha to the north. The western part is a natural, undisturbed, continuous sheet of water. The eastern part, which is used exclusively for salt extraction, covers 76.8 sq. km and comprises two large reservoirs for holding brine, with a series of canals and saltpans. The pans can be approached by the narrow bunds that separate them. After the brine reaches a certain level of concentration, it is transferred from the western part of the lake to the reservoirs through two sluice gates in the dam (Gopal and Sharma 1994). Semi-arid and arid vegetation and important tree species of xeric characteristics are found around the lake. Important shrubs are Salvadora oleoides and S. persica.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: Sambhar Lake supports a large number of birds especially Greater Phoenicopterus ruber and Lesser Phoenicopterus minor flamingos. About 45 species of aquatic birds (including ducks, geese, and shorebirds) have been recorded from the lake and its surroundings. The flamingos have been a regular visitor for several decades. Agarwal (1951) reported that soon after the rains, as the lake is filled, “thousands of birds, flamingos and ducks descend on the lake and feed on innumerable insects and small animals that develop in water.” The number of flamingos visiting the lake varies considerably, depending upon the timing and amount of rainfall. Both Greater and Lesser flamingos occur, the former greatly outnumbering the latter. In dry years, the population of migratory birds as well as of resident birds is very low. After a good monsoon in 1982, Prakash Gole (pers. comm.) observed an estimated population of 50,000 flamingos and 200 pelicans (probably Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus), besides many other waterfowl species. However, he did not find any flamingo in the winter of 1984. During surveys conducted in 1992-93, it was estimated that the lake attracted a population of about 5000 flamingos (mostly in the salt pans), and an approximately equal number of other waterfowl species. Sangha (undated) has listed 57 bird species in the main lake and the reservoir up to May 1998. It includes many Near Threatened species.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Bluebull Boselaphus tragocamelus and Golden Jackal Canis aureus are the common mammals found in this IBA.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus 2004  present  A4i  Least Concern 
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Indian Vulture Gyps indicus non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
White-naped Tit Parus nuchalis resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds unknown  2004  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high very unfavourable negligible
unset
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Human intrusions and disturbance work and other activities happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high

Wetlands (inland)   0 0 moderate (70-90%) poor (40-69%) very unfavourable

Little/none of site covered (<10%)  No management plan exists but the management planning process has begun  Very little or no conservation action taking place  negligible 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Sambhar Lake Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 24,000 unknown 0  

Habitats

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
urban/industrial/transport -
Notes: Salt industries
water management -
Notes: Water management

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Satish K. Sharma, Brij Gopal and K. P. Sharma.

References 

Agarwal, S. C. (1951) The Sambhar lake salt resource. Government of India Publication, New Delhi.

Gopal, B.and Sharma, K. P. (1994) Ramsar Sites of India: Sambhar Lake.WWF-India.

Sangha, H. S. (undated) Checklist – up to May 1998. Unpublished.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Sambhar Lake. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/11/2014

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