The Pong Dam Lake Wildlife Sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh, India, is a critical stopover for migratory species, including waterfowl and shorebirds. Under the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1972, the Government of Himachal Pradesh designated the Pong reservoir as a Pong Dam sanctuary for the propagation and protection of wildlife. In 2002, it was established as a Ramsar site.
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About Pong Dam Bird Sanctuary
- The Pong Wetland is located in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra District.
- The Pong Dam, built over the Beas River in 1974, created one of Northern India’s most prominent artificial wetlands.
- It is the first significant wetland that provides a temporary resting area for migratory birds migrating from the Trans Himalayan zone in the winter when the wetlands in Europe, North and Central Asia freeze due to winter’s arrival.
- Every year throughout the winter months of October to March, flocks of waterfowl that breed in these areas in the summer migrate to Pong to spend the winter in more pleasant climatic conditions.
- The whole catchment area spans the districts of Kangra, Mandi, and Kullu.
- The Dhauladhar Mountains are a source of water for Pong Lake.
- Many prominent and minor rivers from the Dhauladhar hills, some perennial and others seasonal, including Dehar, Bhul, Gaj, Baner, Nekar, and others, immediately drain into Pong Dam.
- Rancer, Karu, Kajal-ka-tapu, and Jattaan da Kual are the four major islands in the Pong reservoir.
- Pong Wetland was declared a Wildlife (Bird) Sanctuary by the Himachal Pradesh government in 1983.
- In 1994, the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Government of India designated Pong Dam Lake Wildlife Sanctuary as a Wetland of National Importance.
- The wetland was named to the global list of specially designated sites.
- In the year 2002, this was the state’s first wetland to be designated as a “RAMSAR SITE,” giving it international protection.
- The region has a subtropical climate.
- Summer lasts from mid-March to mid-July, with the monsoon season beginning in early July and ending in mid-September.
- Beginning in early December and lasting until mid-March, the winters are mild.
- The temperature varies from a high of 47 degrees Celsius in the summer to a low of 3.5 degrees Celsius in the winter.
- From July to September, the rain is usually heavy and constant.
Flora and Fauna
- The main forest type in and around the Pong wetland bird sanctuary is Northern Dry Mixed Deciduous woods.
- Shrubs and tiny trees cover the majority of the region surrounding the Pong reservoir.
- More than 420 species of birds have been reported in the Pong wetland, representing 56 of the 77 bird groups found in India.
- There are 27 fish species in total, divided into five families.
- Pong is home to 24 different mammal species.
- The pond at Pong could be classified as a catfish reservoir.
- Mahseer is the most valuable and sought-after fish in the Pong reservoir.
- Pong Lake is home to 85 different butterfly species.
Zones of the Sanctuary
The sanctuary is divided into distinct zones based on the management plan’s objectives, such as:
- Conservation zone – core zone
- Zone of rehabilitation
- Zone of Multiple Use – Buffer Zone
- Overlapping zone for tourism
Pong Dam Lake’s Importance
- Bird viewing, camping, water sports, nature/heritage tourism, and various other recreational activities are all possible at the wetland.
- The marsh has been home to rare species such as Vultures, Falcons, Indian Skimmers, Red Necked Grebes, White Fronted Geese, and many Waders.
- More than 40% of the world’s population is made up of Bar Headed Geese who flock to Pong in enormous numbers.
- This makes the Pong wetland not just India’s but also the world’s largest single gathering spot for Bar Headed Geese.
- In and around Pong, cultural and mythological sites give significant and spiritual value to the wetland.
- Pong Dam is perhaps the country’s sole reservoir where Mahseer fishing is possible.
- Pong Dam Lake’s position is ideal for fishing.
During the summer, the lake’s temperature can reach 47 degrees Celsius, which can diminish the oxygen concentration in the water.
As this wetland is glacier-fed, the implications of global warming on the wetland must be considered, as must the consequences of building dams above streams, water diversion for drinking, irrigation, and hydropower, among other things.