The lonar crater: Maharashtra’s best kept secret!

The Lonar Crater, you might or might not have heard about this majestic one-of-its-kind lake. But one thing is for sure if you get to visit this lake personally you would never be able to get it out of your head. Very bold statement, I know but Lonar lake, or The Lonar crater as it is popularly known, has attracted the attention of not just scientists but also of tourists coming all over the world (Lonar Lake Tourism). Now you might be wondering what is so special about this lake, well it is very simple.

Lonar lake is situated within the only known extraterrestrial impact crater, in the great Deccan Traps, and is a very large basaltic formation in India. Originally when it was discovered people believed that this lake had a volcanic origin, but however, as the research progressed around the area it concluded that it was an impact crater, formed by the impact of either an asteroid or comet. Well before getting into specifics let’s see the history of this majestic lake. 

Lonar Lake


Sure enough, the name Lonar crater and information about it is present all over the internet, however, according to the records the first-ever mention of this crater was found in scriptures such as the Skanda Purana and the Padma Purana. There is also a mention of the crater in the Ain-i-Akbari written around 1600 CE.

Despite all these mentions, it wasn’t until the year 1823 that British officer, J.E. Alexander discovered it, but still, it was thought to be a regular lake. However, in the year 1973, it was found that the Lonar was one of its kind in the whole world as it is the only meteorite impact crater in basalt. This impact was initially expected to have occurred an estimated 52,000 ± 6,000 years ago, however, some new studies show that the impact could have occurred 576,000 ± 47,000 years ago. It was declared as a National Geo-heritage Monument in the year 1979.

Lonar Histroy

Geographical features:

Situated in the Buldhana district of the state of Maharashtra, India ( Lonar Lake in Maharashtra). Lonar Lake has an average depth of about 137 meters with an average diameter of almost 1.8 kilometers, it’s surface area is approximately 1.13 km^2. The meteorite that resulted in the formation of the Lonar crater is considered to be buried deep within the lake. The water present in the lake is both alkaline as well as saline in nature. Depending on its chemical characteristics the lake can be classified into two zones that do not mix with each other, one being an outer neutral zone with pH 7 and the other an inner alkaline zone with pH 11. 

Geographical features of lonar lake

There are many images of the crater available on the internet, but the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) which was flying on NASA’s Terra satellite captured several images of the Lonar crater in 2004. In these simulated images, the blue and off-white indicate man-made infrastructure, green indicates vegetation, pink beige indicates the bare ground, dull purple indicates the fields and dark blue indicates water. On studying this image we can see that there are signs of human settlements and vegetation all around the crater. In the vicinity of the human habitat, there are several fields. 

Crater as a Ramsar site:

Several researchers have been going on for years about Lonar crater’s minerals, ecosystem, and many more. In one such research conducted by IIT Bombay in the year 2019, it was discovered that the minerals that were collected as samples from the Lonar lake were very similar in composition to the minerals that were found in rocks bought back during the Apollo Program from the moon. Leading to this discovery in November 2020 the lake was declared as a protected Ramsar site. Confused about what the Ramsar site is? It is not as complicated as it might sound, Ramsar sites are wetlands that are considered to have international importance and hence are protected. 

Flora and fauna:

Despite several ongoing studies of the crater, there hasn’t been any study conducted yet to understand and evaluate the ecological aspect of the Lonar crater. Despite this, there are several reports and observations about the ecosystem of the crater and following observations about it’s ecosystem can be made 

    1. There are currently nine types of micro-ecosystem existing in the crater.
    2. There are fourteen different types of blue-green algae in the crater.
    3. There are currently five types of alkaliphilic bacteria types of micro-ecosystem existing in the crater.
    4. The crater is home to 160 bird species that also includes migratory birds, 12 mammal species, and 46 types of reptiles. 
    5. The crater has about  237 plant species which includes 153 genera that represent at least 70 plant families.

All these are evidence of how rich the biodiversity of the crater is. This also shows how necessary it is to have a study to understand the unique ecosystem of the crater and how it has become a home to so many species of animal plants and birds. Keeping this biodiversity in mind and considering the large area of the carter, on 20 November 2015, it was declared as the Lonar Wildlife Sanctuary by the government.

Wildlife at Lonar Lake

Threats faced by the Crater:

One might think that being declared as “Wildlife Sanctuary”, “protected Ramsar site”, and the “National Geo-heritage Monument”, the Lonar lake might be very well protected from any threats to it. Yet the reality is far from this, there are several anthropological and environmental threats that the crater faces today.

The people living around the Lonar lake practice agriculture which results in the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and toxic materials that end up polluting the lake water. Sita Nahani and Dhara, the perennial streams, one of the main sources of water for the lake, are used for domestic purposes by tourists, locals, and pilgrims which also ends up polluting it. Other than this illegal deforestation in the neighboring areas, excavation, sewage dump in the lake, and the lack of funds to preserve this lake have put the ecosystem of the lake in grave danger. The increasing pollution in the region has affected the flora and fauna of the lake along with the 100 residents and migratory birds. 

Even though the government realizes the important role Lonar carter plays as a historical and archaeological heritage they lack enough resources to preserve it. There are many civic movements such as “Save Lonar” taking place to protect the great crater. The crater is a location of fascination for many people and saving it will go a long way in preserving numerous secrets that it holds. So are you still wondering what location you must visit on your next vacation?

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  • Mandar
    Posted October 10, 2021 5:16 am 0Likes

    Interesting Blog!

  • Melony
    Posted July 29, 2022 9:12 am 0Likes

    Very good write-up. I absolutely appreciate this website. Thanks!|

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