India has added two new “Ramsar Sites”, its 40th and 41st. Sur Sarovar (Site no. 2440 on the List of Wetlands of International Importance), commonly known as Keetham Lake, is a human-made reservoir in the State of Uttar Pradesh in northern India.
Originally created to supply water to the city of Agra in summer, the wetland soon became an important and rich ecosystem. The Site’s patchwork of different habitat types provides refuge to resident and migratory birds, and more than 60 species of fish. Threatened species include the vulnerable greater spotted eagle (Clanga clanga), sarus crane (Grus antigone) and catfish Wallago attu.
The Site is important for bird species which migrate on the Central Asian flyway, with over 30,000 waterbirds known to visit the reservoir annually. Over 1% of the South Asian regional population of the greylag goose (Anser anser) is present.
Lonar Lake (Site no. 2441), on the Deccan Plateau in Maharashtra State, is an endorheic or closed basin, almost circular in shape, formed by a meteorite impact onto the basalt bedrock. The Site includes the lake as well as escarpments, which form the crater walls, and forested zones.
The lake is high in salinity and alkalinity, as the lack of an outflow leads to a concentration of minerals as the lake water evaporates. Specialized micro-organisms such as anaerobes, cyanobacteria and phytoplankton survive in this harsh chemical environment.
Outside the lake, there is considerable diversity of plant and animal life, as springs which help feed the lake provide a source of fresh water. Inhabiting the Site are 160 species of birds including the vulnerable Asian woollyneck (Ciconia episcopus) and common pochard (Aythya ferina), 46 species of reptiles, and 12 species of mammals including the iconic grey wolf (Canis lupus).
The Sites are both threatened by household sewage and urban wastewater and by unsustainable tourism.