Maharana Pratap Sagar Lake (Pong Dam Lake) of Himachal Pradesh

Maharana Pratap Sagar, also known as Pong Reservoir or Pong Dam Lake, is a human-made lake created by the construction of the Pong Dam on the Beas River. It is located in the wetland zone of the Shivalik hills and serves as an excellent example of how humans and nature can coexist harmoniously. The reservoir is situated in the picturesque landscape of Fatehpur, Jawali, and Dehra tehsil in Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh, India, and was established in 1975. It is formed by the highest earthfill dam in India, and it is a beautiful destination that seamlessly blends natural beauty with conservation efforts.


The lake is fed by Beas River and its numerous perennial tributaries such as Gaj, Neogal, Binwa, Uhl, Bangana, and Baner.

The lake harbours around 22 species of fish, including rare fish like sal and gad. 

Ramsar Convention Recognition

Pong Dam Lake was designated as a Ramsar site in 2002 based on a proposal from the Himachal State Council for Science, Technology, and Environment. It meets the Ramsar criteria 5 and 8, which emphasizes its global significance. More than 420 bird species belonging to 56 families have been recorded in the lake. The lake was previously designated as a "Wetland of National Importance" by the Government of India in 1994.

The reservoir spans an expansive area of 24,529 hectares and is not only a water body but also a wildlife sanctuary, covering 15,662 hectares.It is one of the best bird sanctuaries in the world.


The large reservoir and its strategic location in the extreme north-west of the northern plains has attracted migratory birds from the plains of India and Central Asian countries and Siberia. More than 220 bird species of 54 families have been recorded.The reservoir's periphery boasts mixed perennial and deciduous pine forests, creating a habitat for migratory birds. The interception of the migratory birds on their trans-Himalayan fly path, during each migration season, has enriched the biodiversity values of the reservoir. 


The sanctuary area is covered with tropical and subtropical forests, which shelters a great number of Indian Wildlife animals.


Eucalyptus, acacia, jamun, shisham, mango, mulberry, ficus, kachnar, amla and prunus.


Barking deer, sambar, wild boars, nilgai, leopards and oriental small-clawed otters.


Black-headed gulls, Red necked grebes, plovers, terns, ducks, water-fowl egrets, and more.

Spiritual Attractions 

Bathu temples, locally known as Bathukiladi, are a group of temples located in the Kangra district of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The main temple is dedicated to the goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. These temples were submerged in Maharana Pratap Sagar, a reservoir created by the Pong dam in the early 1970s. Since then, they have only been accessible from May to June when the water level decreases. The temples can be reached by boat from Dhameta and Nagrota Surian, or by road from Jawali. There are several small villages near the temple site, including Guglara, Sugnara, Harsar, Jarot, Bajera, Katnor, Khabal, Ludret, and Bhial.

According to local belief, the temple was built by a king who once ruled the region. Many stories about the origin of the temples are famous among the folklore. Some people believe that the temple was built by the Pandavas. The folklore tells a story dating back to the Mahabharata when the Pandavas tried to build a staircase to ascend to Heaven at the monolithic Masrur Rock Temples located opposite the lake. Indira intervened, and they were unsuccessful. However, they managed to build the 'Stairway to Heaven' at the 'BathukiLadi' temples where that staircase still exists even today and one can climb to the topmost part to experience the feel. The central temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Submerged 'BathukiLadi' temples can be visited in winters when the water recedes.

Water Sports Center

A regional water-sports center at Pong Dam Reservoir promotes activities like canoeing, rowing, sailing, water skiing, and swimming. Structured training programs in water safety cater to enthusiasts through basic, intermediate, and advanced courses.

Displacement of people

Over 50 years ago, more than 20,000 families living in villages of the Kangra region were asked to leave their settlements to make way for the Pong Dam, which was constructed on the Beas river in Himachal Pradesh. The land in this region was fertile and produced diverse crops without using any chemical fertilizers or pesticides, so the people were reluctant to leave. Despite the original plan of rehabilitating the displaced families by bringing under cultivation the land in the Ganganagar region of Rajasthan using the irrigation water from the canals of the Pong Dam project, the land values increased, and there were encroachments by powerful individuals. As a result, it became challenging for newcomers from hilly areas to occupy and cultivate the land. Some families were given land in the remote desert areas of Jaisalmer, which lacked essential facilities. The extreme heat of the Thar desert also posed a challenge for people used to the cold weather of Himachal Pradesh. Consequently, many families were unable to settle down in new places or cultivate the land allotted to them. Today, more than 50 years later, the second generation of displaced people is still struggling for rehabilitation.


Maharana Pratap Sagar, with its dual role as a vital water source and a thriving wildlife sanctuary, exemplifies the successful synergy between nature conservation and recreational activities. As a Ramsar Wetland site, it stands as a beacon of environmental responsibility, welcoming visitors to witness the marvels of biodiversity while ensuring sustainable development.

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