Lonar Lake’s area is shrinking, researchers say

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Mumbai: The surface area of Lonar Lake in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district, formed after a meteorite hit the Earth some 50,000 years ago, is shrinking, researchers have found.

The periphery of the lake — which is a notified National Geo-heritage Monument — has moved 100 meter inward in the last three years, said a recent report by researchers of Pune-based Centre for Citizen Science (CCS).

The ‘mean diameter’ of the lake is around 1.2 km.

Expressing concern over the development, the report said that depletion of water level was because of diversion of water for agricultural and non-agricultural activities in the surrounding area.

The CCS team has been studying Lonar Lake since 2003 along with scientists from the Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, National Centre for Radio Astrophysics and the Indian Meteorological Department.

Located around 500 km from Mumbai, Lonar is a popular tourist hub, besides attracting scientists from all over the world.

Mayuresh Prabhune, who led the team of CCS researchers, said the outer line of lake has shrunk by 100 metres since 2014.

“There are several bore wells less than 100 metres from the crater’s rim. Lonar crater is an eco-sensitive zone, but there are food joints and bore wells nearby,” he said.

“Collective impact of these activities is that water supply to the lake is decreasing. With extensive diversion of water, the lake’s storage has declined sharply,” he said.

“The CCS also studied rainfall pattern in the area since 2003 and noticed that there has been no significant change in the precipitation levels,” Prabhune said.

“The study found out that reduction in water level is a combined result of drying up of (nearby) percolation dam and the closure of streams (which flow) into the lake,” the report said.

Warning that “fluctuations and rapid changes” in Lonar Lake are harmful for biodiversity, Yogesh Shouche, microbiologist and CCS president, said the government should frame a special policy for its conservation.

“In a move that had green activists worried, the Centre last year shrunk the Eco-Sensitive Zone around the lake to 100 metres from the earlier 500 metres,” said Sudhakar Bugdane, member of the state government-appointed Lonar Lake Conservation Committee said.

Lonar crater lake was identified as a unique geographical site by a British officer named C J E Alexander in 1823. Geologists believe that it was formed due to a meteorite impact that occurred between 35,000 and 50,000 years ago.

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