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  The Tso Moriri lake in the Changthang area of Ladakh was declared as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 2003. The lake now has the distinction of being the highest Ramsar site in the world surpassing Salar de Tara in Chile. The lake is approximately 19 kms long and 7 kms wide and is located at an altitude of 4595 meters above sea level. It is fed by a number of small glacial streams and has no external drainage. This fact coupled with a high rate of evaporation, has resulted in the waters being brackish and bereft of any life. The lake is the only breeding ground outside of China for one of the most endangered cranes, the Black-necked crane Grus nigricollis, Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), Common Redshank (Tringa tetanus), Brown headed gull (Larus brunnicephalus), Lesser sand plover (Charadius mongolus) and Great crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) and the sole breeding ground for bar-headed geese in India. The area also forms a nesting ground for the main nesting site for the Bar Headed Geese and the Brown Headed Gull. Tsomoriri has been designated as a Ramsar Site in November 2002.

Increased human activity, particularly since 1990, after a road was built right up to the lake is considered as one of the biggest threats to the lake and the nesting birds here. Rising tourism, in particular, is creating problems. Disturbance of wildlife, pollution by solid waste, changes in local lifestyles and loss of cultural heritage are some of the other impacts of tourism in the area. Moreover, Ladakh is becoming a trekking destination and this has introduced number of pack animals, donkeys, mules and horses into the region. This increase is putting tremendous pressure on few pastures available. Degradation is enhanced by trekkers tendency to set camps in the pastures rather than on bare patches. In the absence of garbage disposal facilities, the practice of dumping garbage into nearby streams as well as into marmot, mouse hare or vole burrows, has become quite common in recent years, leading to lake pollution and degradation.

The conservation of the lake is done by A Tso Morari Conservation Trust, which is formed in 2003 to work towards the conservation of the lake. This was done with the help of the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) local office in Leh. Local people are reported to be involved in the working of the trust.

Gautam P, Chatterjee A. 2001. Building Bridges for conservation of Tsomoriri, a high altitude wetland of Ladakh Himalaya. Paper submitted in the 11th Stockholm water symposium.

Black-necked Crane
Status, Breeding Productivity and Conservation in Ladakh,
India 2000-2004

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Freshwater and wetlands conservation programme
World wide fund for nature ( WWF ) – India
172-B, Lodi Estate
New Delhi – 110003

Contact person: 
Dr. Parikshit Gautam, Director   
Archna Chatterjee
Regional Programme on Himalayan Glaciers, Rivers and High altitude
Ph 91-11-43516202