Nalsarovar Wildlife Sanctuary

Site description (2004 baseline):

Site location and context
Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary is spread over an area of 12,082 ha and is one of the largest shallow freshwater lakes in India. It has been proposed as a Ramsar Site. The Sanctuary lies in the semiarid districts of Ahmedabad and Surendranagar in north Gujarat. The Lake has an elliptical basin with a gentle slope. It is very shallow, with a maximum depth of 3 m and has about 360 islands scattered in it. The shoreline of the lake is barren and is surrounded by dry land and some crop fields (Singh 2001). Nalsarovar is also a very popular site for tourists and birdwatchers. Nalsarovar is a typical temporary shallow wetland, generally seen in dry areas. About 50 species of algae and over 72 species of aquatic plants including Vallisneria, Ceratophyllum and Chara have been recorded from the area (Singh 1998). This vast shallow wetland does not have much emergent vegetation. In drought years, it remains dry for most part of the year.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: About 250 species of birds have been recorded of which 158 species are waterbirds. Over 2,24,000 birds were recorded in 1992 and over 1,41,000 birds in 1996 in censuses conducted by the Forest Department (Singh 2001). Threatened bird species include the Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, Pallas’s Fish-eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis and others. Some common species of birds are the Coot Fulica atra, Northern Shoveller Anas clypeata, Northern Pintail Anas acuta, Wigeon Anas penelope, Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber and Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala. This site has been selected mainly on the basis of congregatory criteria (A4) as more than 20,000 waterfowl are found when rainfall is normal. As the area is vast, so species-wise population estimates are not easy. Nevertheless, many ducks and waders are found in much larger numbers than their 1% biogeographic population threshold estimated by Wetlands International (2002). As Nalsarovar falls in the migratory route, hundreds of thousands of birds stop over before spreading out in the rest of Gujarat (and other parts of India). Therefore, we have included it under A4iv criteria also, i.e. the site is known or thought to exceed thresholds set for migratory species at bottleneck sites.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The Sanctuary also supports a herd of Wild Ass Equus onager during summer. Wolf Canis lupus, Hyena Hyaena hyaena, Golden Jackal Canis aureus, Indian Fox Vulpes bengalensis and Jungle Cat Felis chaus are also recorded in the area. About 20 species of fish have been recorded from the area (Singh 2001).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Fishing; Trapping and poaching of birds; Grazing of aquatic grass and algae; Pumping of water for irrigation; Tourist pressure and consequent disturbance to birds.

About 34,000 people live in and around Nalsarovar. All of them depend on the wetland for their livelihood and use it for fishing, livestock grazing, fodder harvesting, cultivation and tourism-based activities. Some local tribal communities trap and poach the waterbirds. Local farmers draw water from the wetland. Due to its proximity to Ahmedabad and other towns, tourist pressure is very high. At the same time this is an opportunity to sensitize them about conservation, especially the importance of wetlands. Most of the tourists come for picnics. A good interpretation centre, educational material in the local language, and presence of knowledgeable guides would help in imparting knowledge on conservation. Guides should be selected from the local villages to provide income to them. Once the villagers know that they can make money by showing birds to visitors, the incidence of poaching may also be reduced.

Key contributors: H. S. Singh and the IBA team.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Nalsarovar Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 01/12/2023.