The iconic Lonar Sarovar in Buldhana district of the Vidarbha region has now been declared as Ramsar Wetland Site. State Tourism and Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray said it is important in terms of biodiversity and tourism.
A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The convention on wetlands is known as the Ramsar.
The oval-shaped Lonar lake, formed after a meteorite hit the Earth some 50,000 years ago, is a popular tourist hub as well. The site includes the lake as well as escarpments, which form the crater walls, and forested zones.
According to the Convention on Wetlands, the Lonar Lake is high in salinity and alkalinity, as the lack of an outflow leads to a concentration of minerals as the lake water evaporates. Specialised micro-organisms such as anaerobes, cyanobacteria and phytoplankton survive in this harsh chemical environment.
“I’m glad that the Lonar Crater is now officially a Ramsar Site. Having seen it for the first time in 2004, it is a sight that captivates everyone. It has its own significance in the world of Biodiversity, Tourism & Geology,” Aaditya Thackeray said in a tweet.
Outside the lake, there is considerable diversity of plant and animal life, as springs which help feed the lake provide a source of fresh water.
Inhabiting the site are 160 species of birds including the vulnerable Asian woollyneck (Ciconia episcopus) and common pochard (Aythya ferina), 46 species of reptiles, and 12 species of mammals including the iconic grey wolf (Canis lupus).
The Lonar lake hogged the headlines in July after its water turned pink due to a large presence of the salt-loving ‘Haloarchaea’ microbes, a probe carried out by a Pune-based institute has concluded. Haloarchaea or halophilic archaea is a bacteria culture which produces pink pigment and is found in water saturated with salt.
Further, the Lonar Sarovar is threatened by household sewage and urban wastewater and by unsustainable tourism.