Harike Lake Bird Sanctuary

Country/territory: India

IBA criteria met: A1, A4i, A4iii (2004)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 8,600 ha

Bombay Natural History Society
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) Threat (pressure) Condition (state) Action (response)
2012 high favourable medium
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (baseline)
Harike Lake is a shallow water storage reservoir created by the construction of a barrage at Harike in 1952, at the confluence of the Sutlej and Beas rivers. It covers an area of approximately 14,800 ha in the open water. About 33 islands are scattered throughout the lake. The water depth varies from 1.2 m to 4.2 m. More than 50% of the water area is thickly covered by Water Hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes. The lake is surrounded by agricultural land and is the main source of water for the Indira Gandhi (Rajasthan) Canal. The lake is triangular in shape, with its apex in the west, a bund called Dhussi Bund forming one side, a canal the second and a major road the third. Harike lake is a vital source of fish to Punjab (WWF, undated). The National Committee on Wetlands, Mangroves and Coral Reefs of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, has identified Harike Lake as one of the wetlands for special conservation action and management. This artificial water body is heavily infested with Water Hyacinth that forms floating islets throughout the lake. Thick stands of Typha are found at the margins. The embankments have been planted with Dalbergia sissoo, Acacia nilotica, Zizyphus, Ficus and Prosopis chilensis.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Harike Lake was designated as a Ramsar site on account of its importance as habitat for large number and diversity of waterfowl (Ladhar et al. 1994). The lake is an important staging and wintering area for migratory waterfowl. Over 20,000 ducks have been counted at the peak of the migratory season. Flocks of 2-3 thousands Redcrested Pochard Rhodonessa rufina, Common Pochard Aythya ferina and Tufted Pochard Aythya fuligula are not uncommon. A study conducted by the Bombay Natural History Society (1980-85) recorded 167 species of resident and migratory birds. Scaup Duck Aythya marila, Falcated Teal Anas falcata and the globally threatened White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala have been reported. The updated list (Harvey, 2002) consists of 358 species, including some very old records such as the Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax that has not been seen in India for the last five decades or more. The open water zone is very important for Near Threatened Darter Anhinga melanogaster. More than 100 have been counted in some years (Prakash, et al. 1997). The Wetlands International (2002) calculate that its population in South Asia would be about 4,000 and declining. Its 1% biogeographic population threshold is 40. It number in Harike is more than 2% of its population. Similarly, many ducks are seen in more than 1% population threshold at Harike. Therefore, this site also qualifies A4i criteria, i.e. the site is known to or thought to hold, on a regular basis, =1% of a biogeographic population of a congregatory waterbird species (BirdLife International, undated).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Sinha (1997) reported 16 mammalian species from this IBA site out of which the Smooth Indian Otter Lutra perspicillata requires conservation measure. Other mammals present at the site include Jungle Cat Felis chaus, Golden Jackal Canis aureus, Wild Boar Sus scrofa, and Common Mongoose Herpestes edwardsi. Fresh water turtles include Kachuga tecta and Lissemys punctata andersoni. About 26 species of fish have been recorded from the lake.

Key contributors: Bill Harvey, Satnam Singh Ladhar and Prakash Rao..

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Harike Lake Bird Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 01/06/2023.