The next morning by 0930h we packed our bags and moved to our next destination, ‘Pushkar‘. Our first halt was at ‘Sambhar Salt Lake ‘. The first halt of the day that too unplanned. Shalini was going through google maps and figured out salt lake near Jaipur. She re-routed the map and we ended up in ‘Sambhar Salt Lake, A Lake No More’.
Sambhar Salt Lake has been designated as a Ramsar site. Ramsar is a convention on wetlands conservation.Sambhar in Rajasthan is no more a lake. Anthropogenic pressure have killed the wetland.
To reach Sambhar you have to take a detour from NH48, Jaipur – Ajmer highway. If you are traveling in the months of late Sept and Oct, you will find flocks of waterfowl including flamingos, sandpipers, and redshanks that migrate from northern Asia and Siberia. After the Rann of Kutch, where they breed, Sambhar is said to be the most residential territory for flamingos in India. We somehow reached the lake asking for directions from localities. The roads are not in good condition but this is what you expect from an offbeat tourist destination, Google Maps shows the location of a camping site which comes after salt lake while coming from Jaipur. Warning in advance, if you are planning to visit the lake in your sedan, better be prepared to visit a mechanic too.
On reaching, we saw the sprawling salt desert. You can camp here as well. There are agencies that organise camping for tourists. During the migration season, you can board a heritage train run by a private firm, which will take you around the lake site.
The moment we crossed the railway under-bridge, the first scene that flashbacked was the advertisement of Rann Utsav, casting ‘Big B‘ standing in a bright desert of salt in an indigo blue costume, and why not? The salt dunes piled by ‘Sambhar Salts Ltd’ adds to the beauty of this place. The scenic beauty of the lake makes it a picturesque and perfect place for camping location.
Sambhar : Why a Lake No More
Unfortunately, anthropogenic pressures have killed a wetland of international importance. Salt extraction, earlier done by surface brine now been done using hundreds of borewells. So the scope of replenishment water in lakes with groundwater has already been exhausted. Indiscriminate groundwater extraction is the single largest threat to Sambhar. Due to rapid developments in the area, there has been progressive degradation in the habitat of waterfowl too. The winter congregation of flamingoes has reduced from thousands to a few hundred.
After spending almost 2hr in the salt desert we continued towards Ajmer.