Sambhar Lake

Country/territory: India

IBA criteria met: A1, A4i, A4iii (2004)
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Area: 19,000 ha

Bombay Natural History Society
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2013 very unfavourable very high negligible
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Site description (2004 baseline)
Sambhar is a large, shallow saline lake, only about 3 m at its deepest. The maximum length of the lake basin is 22.5 km, while the width ranges from 3.2 km to 11.2 km. The lake bed is almost flat. The lake basin is divided into two unequal parts by a 5.16 km long dam between the settlements of Jhapok to the south and Gudha to the north. The western part is a natural, undisturbed, continuous sheet of water. The eastern part, which is used exclusively for salt extraction, covers 76.8 sq. km and comprises two large reservoirs for holding brine, with a series of canals and saltpans. The pans can be approached by the narrow bunds that separate them. After the brine reaches a certain level of concentration, it is transferred from the western part of the lake to the reservoirs through two sluice gates in the dam (Gopal and Sharma 1994). Semi-arid and arid vegetation and important tree species of xeric characteristics are found around the lake. Important shrubs are Salvadora oleoides and S. persica.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Sambhar Lake supports a large number of birds especially Greater Phoenicopterus ruber and Lesser Phoenicopterus minor flamingos. About 45 species of aquatic birds (including ducks, geese, and shorebirds) have been recorded from the lake and its surroundings. The flamingos have been a regular visitor for several decades. Agarwal (1951) reported that soon after the rains, as the lake is filled, “thousands of birds, flamingos and ducks descend on the lake and feed on innumerable insects and small animals that develop in water.” The number of flamingos visiting the lake varies considerably, depending upon the timing and amount of rainfall. Both Greater and Lesser flamingos occur, the former greatly outnumbering the latter. In dry years, the population of migratory birds as well as of resident birds is very low. After a good monsoon in 1982, Prakash Gole (pers. comm.) observed an estimated population of 50,000 flamingos and 200 pelicans (probably Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus), besides many other waterfowl species. However, he did not find any flamingo in the winter of 1984. During surveys conducted in 1992-93, it was estimated that the lake attracted a population of about 5000 flamingos (mostly in the salt pans), and an approximately equal number of other waterfowl species. Sangha (undated) has listed 57 bird species in the main lake and the reservoir up to May 1998. It includes many Near Threatened species.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Bluebull Boselaphus tragocamelus and Golden Jackal Canis aureus are the common mammals found in this IBA.

Key contributors: Satish K. Sharma, Brij Gopal and K. P. Sharma.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Sambhar Lake. Downloaded from on 28/02/2024.