Karamjeet Singh's Himalayan Home

To most city dwellers, the word "lake" conjures up a vision of placid waters, boats with semi-recumbent revelers and other paraphernalia of a tourist resort, all backed by an equally placid, non threatening scenic background. The Dal lake, the Naini lake and others like the Renuka lake near Nahan....
All these lakes are found between the three and seven thousand foot levels.

Lakes of the middle and lower altitudes, as in Kumaon, have suffered the effects of environmental degradation for decades now. Lakes such as Nainital, Bhimtal etc. because of their accessible location, have become classic examples of the total degradation of God given resources by human callousness.

Reduced oxygen content, high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, make the water unsafe for human contact and are rapidly depleting the lake's carp population, an interloper itself.

Beyond the common perception, lie the true Great Himalayan lakes, most occurring in the trans. Himalayan regions, where the lie of the land is easier. The great lakes of Ladakh ...Tso Morari and Pangong Tso - almost like inland seas, the highest of them all- Gurudogmar in north Sikkim at an altitude of 17,600 feet above sea level. and The jewel like Chandratal in Lahaul

One of the most classically beautiful of all Himalayan lakes is the Chandratal in Lahaul's upper Chandra valley. Aptly called the lake of the moon, it lies in a broad turquoise crescent along the flank of the Great Himalaya range itself, surrounded by the high peaks of the Chandrabhaga and the Mulkila massifs. Situated at a breathtaking 15500 feet above sea level, the lake itself was probably formed at the end of the last ice age when the glaciers retreated, leaving behind considerable dead ice masses, which on melting formed large lakes.

Other Transhimalayan lakes like the Pangong and TsoMorari saw similar beginnings. Most of these lakes had no outlet. The huge amounts of water present at the outset evaporated very fast in the desert like atmosphere and what had been initially freshwater became brackish and finally salty.

The greatest lake in the Indian Himalayas is undoubtedly the Pangong Tso. At an altitude of almost 4500 meters, the Pangong Tso, across the Changla pass, from Leh is only 8 km wide at it's broadest but is an amazing 134 kilometers long bisected by the international border between India and Tibet. Most of the fresh water inlets into the lake are towards the Tibetan end.
Pangong Tso, bathed in the varying light of the day, is a memorable sight. The golden coloured range to the north, with it's rolling spurs culminating in chiseled peaks spreads before your eyes a panorama of spectacular dimensions. With it's almost 2000 square kilometers of turquoise water and a depth of a 100 meters, Pangong can baffle the eye, for in the rarefied atmosphere distant objects appear right next door.
On the windward side of the great range, lakes occur at all altitudes up to 17,000 feet, getting progressively smaller the higher they go. In fact, in the higher reaches they are often morainic pools styled as lakes because they are pilgrim destinations. Manimahesh lake in Upper Chamba is one such destination overlooked by the lone pyramid of Kailash manumahesh itself. Such lakes draw their waters from the melting of glacial ice.

Suraj Tal at the famed Baralacha pass draws it's waters from the snowmelt on the surrounding ridges. Geologically, Surajtal occupies a glacial depression, probably ground down by the ice during the last Himalayan Ice age.
Then there are what can be termed mountain tarns - small lakes in the higher altitudes formed by the glacial activity of the remote past. These are mostly on the crest of the Pir-Panjal range and extend all the way across to the Upper Beas.

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