Riat Khwan - Umiam Lake

Country/territory: India

IBA Criteria met: A1, A2 (2004)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 1,500 ha

Protection status:

Bombay Natural History Society
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2003 high not assessed not assessed
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
This site includes the Riat Khwan Reserve Forest, Umiam Lake and the forests near the old Guwahati-Shillong road in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. The area spreads into two districts, East Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi. The terrain of Riat Khwan is hilly and steep, and forms a part of the catchment area of the River Umiam. Barapani, as the Umiam reservoir was and still is popularly known, is a large artificial reservoir of c. 1,000 ha. It is about 16 km from Shillong, the State capital. It was created for the generation of hydroelectric power in the 1960s. This is the second largest reservoir in northeast India after Gumti in Tripura (Choudhury 2002). The area is an important tourist destination and thousands of visitors come to the site every winter. Many of the visitors are picnickers. Since Umiam is located on the busy National Highway- 40 that connects two state capital cities, Guwahati and Shillong, accessibility is excellent and its importance as a tourist centre is increasing. The area has a subtropical climate. Usually, summer is hot and humid and winter is cool and dry. The site lies in a rain shadow area, so the rainfall is comparatively low. In the Riat Khwan-Umiam area, two forest types are seen, namely Pine Forest (Assam Subtropical Pine Forest) and Broadleaf Forest. Riat Khwan RF, is mostly Broadleaf Forest, but the higher parts of the site are dominated by Khasi pine Pinus kesiya (Lahkar 2002). In the Lake, there is some emergent vegetation at the western edge.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Umiam Lake is important for wintering waterfowl. Waterfowl censuses were carried out in the area sporadically throughout the 1990s, and more than 40 species of waterbirds were recorded. The Black Stork Ciconia nigra and Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca (Near Threatened) were recorded during a waterfowl census in 1999. Four species of grebes, the Great Crested Podiceps cristatus, Black-necked P. nigricollis, Red-necked P. griseigena and Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis, have been noted. Darter Anhinga melanogaster (Near Threatened), Gadwall Anas strepera, Wigeon A. penelope and Northern Shoveller A. clypeata are other noteworthy waterfowl (Choudhury 1998). More than 70 other species of birds have been reported from the site (Lahkar 2002), and the surrounding forests, but many more are likely to occur. The site lies in Biome-8 (Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest). In this biome, BirdLife International (undated) has listed 95 bird species, of which 16 species have been reported from here but more are likely to be present. They are the Golden-throated Barbet Megalaima franklinii, Blue-throated Barbet M. asiatica, Blackwinged Cuckoo-shrike Coracina melaschistos, Rosy Minivet Pericrocotus roseus, Short-billed Minivet P. brevirostris, Striated Bulbul Pycnonotus striatus, Flavescent Bulbul P. flavescens, Crested Finchbill Spizixos canifrons, Mountain Bulbul Hypsipetes mcclellandii, Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii, Bluewinged Minla Minla cyanouroptera, Rufous-backed Sibia Heterophasia annectens, Small Niltava Niltava macgrigoriae, Black-spotted Yellow Tit Parus spilonotus, Maroon Oriole Oriolus traillii and Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae. This site is selected mainly based on A1 (Threatened Species) and A3 (Biome-restricted assemblage) criteria. Two restricted range species have been identified which are common and not much of conservation concern. However, more are likely to be found as the forests is relatively in good condition.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: No particularly significant species occurs, except for the occasional arrival of Flying foxes Pteropus giganteus. Bamboo rats Cannomys badius have been also reported. There were Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak in Riat Khwan but the current status is unknown. It may have been extirpated due to hunting.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Riat Khwan - Umiam Lake. Downloaded from on 15/07/2020.