McleodGanj.Dharamsala.Kangra valley

"Close to Heaven"




Maharana Pratap Sagar - Pong Dam Lake

Pong Lake – Kangra Valley

Location Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh Coordinates 32°01′N 76°05′E / 32.017°N 76.083°E Coordinates: 32°01′N 76°05′E / 32.017°N 76.083°E Lake type reservoir (low altitude) Catchment area 12,561 km2 (4,850 sq mi) Basin countries India

Max. length 42 km Max. width 2km Surface area 240 km2 (93 sq mi) and 450 km2 (174 sq mi) during floods]

Max. depth 97.84 m (321.0 ft) Water volume 8570 Mm3 Surface elevation 433.12 m (1,421.0 ft).

Islands : Several Settlements Pong & Bharmar Shivothan

Maharana Pratap Sagar also known as Pong Dam Reservoir or Pong Dam Lake was created in 1975 building the highest earthfill dam in India on the Beas River in the wetland zone of the Siwalik Hills of the Kangra district of the state of Himachal Pradesh, in India. Named in the honour of the patriot Maharana Pratap (1572 –1597 C.E), the reservoir or the lake is a well known wildlife sanctuary and one of the 25 wetland sites declared in India by the Ramsar Convention.

Things to Do : Angling , Wildlife , Birdwatching , Watersports , Retreats.

The closest railway stations to the project are Mukerian 30 km (18.6 mi) and Pathankot 32 km (19.9 mi). Nagrota Surian and Jawali located on the periphery of the reservoir are connected by the narrow gauge railway line, the Kangra railway line, which connects Pathankot to Jogindernagar.
The reservoir is connected by a good network of roads to major cities in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.

Distance from the main cities

  • Distance from Chandigarh – 250 km (155.3 mi)
  • Distance from Amritsar – 110 km (68.4 mi)
  • Distance from Dharamsala – 55 km (34.2 mi)
  • Distance from Kangra – 50 km (31.1 mi)
  • Distance from Bharmar or Bharmar Shivothan. – 10 km (6.2 mi)

Apart from the airports at Chandigrah and Amritsar which are far off, the closest airport to the reservoir is Gaggal at 40 km (24.9 mi).

Topography :

The reservoir is bounded by the rugged Dhauladhar mountain range, the low foothills of the Himalaya on the northern edge of the Indo-Gangetic plains and the mountain streams cutting through valleys

Hydrology and engineering features

The hydrology of the river system and the engineering features of the Pando Dam are elaborated.


The Beas River on which the Pando dam is located is one of the five major rivers of the Indus basin. The river rises from the Beas Kund near Rohtang Pass, in the upper Himalayas, and traverses generally in a north-south direction till Largi from where it turns sharply at nearly a right angle and flows in a westerly direction up to the Pando dam. The river traverses a total length of about116 km (72.1 mi) from the source to the Pando dam.

The reservoir drains a catchment area of 12,561 km2 (4,850 sq mi) out of which the permanent snow catchment is 780 km2 (301 sq mi) 780 km. Monsoon rainfall between July and September is a major source of water supply into the reservoir, apart from snow and glacier melt. The project area experiences hot summers with maximum temperature of 40 °C (104.0 °F) with hot and humid climate. Winters are fairly cold and mostly dry. The dam acts as a sponge for flood flows and reservoir regulation prevents the inundation of surrounding upland areas from routine flooding during the monsoon season. The reservoir stretch is 42 km (26.1 mi) long with a maximum width of 19 km (11.8 mi) and with a mean depth of 35.7 m (117.1 ft). While the surface water temperature varies between 22.2 °C (72.0 °F) and 25.1 °C (77.2 °F), the incoming river water has a temperature range of 6 °C (42.8 °F) to 26 °C (78.8 °F).

Engineering features

Subsequent to the partition of India, the waters of the Indus river system were allocated river wise, with certain stipulations, as per the Indus Water Treaty (1960), between India and Pakistan with India getting exclusive use of the three eastern rivers (the Ravi, the Beas and the Satluj) and Pakistan getting the exclusive use of the three western rivers (the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab). Following this treaty, India prepared a master plan to utilize the waters of 3 rivers which came to its share and the Bhakra Dam was constructed across Satluj River and then the Beas River was tapped in two stages with the Pong dam forming the second stage development. Ravi River has also been developed through the Ranjit Sagar Dam Project or Thein Dam. All three river developments are multipurpose in nature involving irrigation, water supply and hydropower generation.

The Beas Dam has been built on the Beas River as it enters the plains at Talwara, also called as another temple of modern India. It is an earth core gravel shell dam of 435 ft (132.6 m) height above the deepest foundation and is stated to be the highest earthfill dam in India. The reservoir or the lake has a storage capacity of 8570 M.cum. The designed maximum flood discharge of 4,37,000 cusecs (12401 cumecs) is discharged through a gated chute spillway (pictured) located on the left abutment of the dam.
The confirmed ruling features of the dam are as under.
Top of dam EL. 435. 86 metres (EL. 1430 feet)
Normal reservoir level EL. 426.72 meters (EL. 1400 feet)
Maximum reservoir level EL. 433.12 metres (EL. 1421 feet)
Dead storage level EL. 384.05 meters(EL.1260 feet)
Gross storage capacity 8570 million cum (6.95 MAF)
Live storage capacity 7290 million cum (5.91 MAF)
Reservoir length 41.8 km (26.0 mi)
Maximum reservoir depth 97.84 m (321.0 ft)

The Hydro Power plant located down stream, on the right side of the spillway structure, has an installed capacity of 390 MW with six generating units (1x60 + 5x66 MW). Water from the reservoir is led into the power house through penstock pipes, each of 5.025 m (16.5 ft) diameter.

Reservoir operation is a crucial aspect since both Bhakra dam and Pong dam Projects necessitate their operation in an 'Integrated Manner' to achieve optimal benefits of Irrigation and Power. Water stored in the reservoir during summer and rainy season, after meeting with the irrigation requirements of the partner states, is released in a regulated manner during lean period in a fixed schedule of Filling Period–Depletion Period for both the reservoirs; the filling and depletion period for a) the Bhakra reservoir is from 21 May to 20 September and 21 September to 20 May, and 2) for Pong dam reservoir from 21 June to 20 and September 21 September to 20 June respectively. A Technical Committee of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) authorizes the monthly releases appropriately honoring the requirements projected by the partner states. The operation manuals titled "Designer's Criteria for the Operation, Maintenance and Observation" for the Bhakra, Pong & Pando reservoirs, duly updated as required, provide the guiding rules for the efficient integrated operation of the reservoirs. The two reservoirs supply irrigation and drinking water to Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi and Chandigarh. Himachal Pradesh is also provided with drinking water supply.

Water quality

The water quality parameters recorded for the reservoir are:

  • Secchi disc transparency 0.12– 4.8 m; pH 7.0– 8.4; silicates 3.0– 5.0 mg/l; chlorides 6.0– 7.0 mg/l , total hardness 22– 28 mg/l gives total hardness range from 19 to 68 mg/l, total alkalinity 53&ndash 81 mg/ l; specific conductivity 173– 190 µmhos.

Flora and fauna

Ramsar site

Pong Dam Lake was declared a Ramsar Wetland site on account of its rich waterfowl diversity for conservation and sustainable use of the wetland. This recognition was based on a proposal formulated by the Himachal State Council for Science, Technology and Environment, Shimla submitted to the Ramsar Bureau, Switzerland through the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Government of India.
The large reservoir and its strategic location in the extreme northwest 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 were recorded. 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 Pando reservoir and its catchment have the following rich flora and fauna.

Forest vegetation

The reservoir peripheral land area has mixed perennial and deciduous pine forests on hills. Eucalyptus trees have also been grown in the area. The forest growth provides enough sustenance to the migratory birds. The tree species of the forest area are Acacia, Jamun, Shisham, Mango, Mulberry, Ficus, Kachanar, Amla and Prunus. A variety of shrubs, grasses and climbers are also reported.The reservoir seasonal water level variation between the maximum water level and the minimum draw down level does not permit growth of much emergent vegetation but some amount of submerged vegetation is noticed.


A wide variety of commercially viable fish, 27 species of 5 families, such as Mahseer, Catla, Mirror Carps, Singhara (native) and others are recorded in the Pong Dam reservoir and its tributaries. Before the reservoir was built, catfishes, mirror carps and a few coarse fish were the dominant fish fauna in the Beas River. With the emergence of the reservoir, commercial fishing was encouraged as an important programme not only to provide employment to about 1500 fishermen but also to promote the eco-tourism potential.

A planned operation of fish stocking was launched with first introduction of Common carp in 1974 and Indian major carps or Silver carp in 1976–77. This resulted in a shift in the catch structure of the reservoir with carps accounting for 61.8% of the total landings in 1987–88. The present fish stocks in the reservoir, in the sequence of their abundance are: 1) Rohu, Aorichthys seenghala, 2) Labeo calbasu (native), 3) Tor putitora (Himalayan Mahseer), 4) Cirrhinus mrigala, 5) Wallago attu, 6) Cyprinus carpio, 7) Labeo dero, 8) Catla catla and 9) Channa sp. The reservoir, unlike other reservoirs in the region, has shown a marked growth in catch of Mahseer fish recording 20 % of the total catch during 1999-2000 with the average size of the fish ranging from 1.5–1.7 kg (3.3–3.7 lb). This is attributed to the change in the Himachal Pradesh (HP) Fishing Rules with an added clause which specifies the minimum catchable size for Mahseer as 300 to 500 mm or approximately 1.2 kg 1.2 kg (2.6 lb) which is stated to give to each female Mahseer to breed at least once before being caught.

Mahseer angling in the Pong Dam reservoir is said to be the only one of its kind in the country.

Bird sanctuary

The reservoir was declared as a bird sanctuary in 1983. A 5 km (3.1 mi) belt from the periphery of the lake has been declared as buffer zone for the management of the bird sanctuary. The national as well international significance of the sanctuary is enhanced because of its waterfowl diversity, which was evidenced by the increase of water fowl species from 39 prior to the reservoir to 54 species at post reservoir stage. The number of birds reported, particularly during the winter period of November to March, has steadily increased over the years and the recent records indicate a water fowl count of 130,000 in 2004 and 142,000 during 2005 migratory birds – a phenomenal increase from the average annual count of 18,887 for the period 1988–1995.

The main bird species reported are the barheaded geese (Goose), Anser indicus, northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), ruddy shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), Northern pintail (Anas acuta), common teal (Anas crecca), Mariana Mallard (Anas poecilorhyncha oustaleti), Eurasian Coot Fulica atra, red-necked Grebe (Podiceps griseigena), Black-headed gulls, plovers, Black Stork, terns, water-fowl and egrets.

The avian habitats in the reservoir area are categorized under the following heads:

1. The receding shore–line form Mudflats and mud spits from October onwards which provide organic matter, worms, insects and moluscs for wintering birds and plovers. Wagtails, sand larks and Pipits also use the mudflats.
2. The shallow water on the margins of the reservoir and the open deep water are used by dabbling ducks (Anatinae) and some long-legged waders
3. In the sandy banks near the reservoir periphery with dry sand banks strewn with small boulders, with little or no vegetation, stone curlew and pratincoles feed here.
4. Below the outfall of the dam, swamp habitats and water side vegetation are used by birds such as ducks, coot, warblers, babblers, munias, kingfishers and predators.
5. In the reservoir draw down areas, which are also cultivated by local people during winter, Bar-headed geese and ruddy shel duck feed.
Around 5000 tourists are reported to visit the bird sanctuary during winter season and most of them come to watch migratory birds for the first time. Efforts are being made to encourage eco-tourism to attract more tourists to the reservoir.


The periphery above the water surface area of the reservoir has recorded fauna species such as barking deer, sambar, wild boars, leopards and Oriental Small-clawed Otters.

Water sports

A regional water sports center has been established in the Pong dam reservoir which offers focused activities such as canoeing, rowing, sailing, and water skiing, apart from swimming. Training programmes are organized in water safety and rescue measures with three tier water sports courses - the basic course, intermediate course and advanced course. Modern infrastructure facilities have been created with a 75 bed hostel and a 10 suit rest house. It is said to be the only centre of its type in the country.

Protection measures

The following protection measures have enabled preservation of the reservoir ecosystem.

  • Declaring the entire reservoir as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1986 by the Himachal Pradesh government has mostly eliminated poaching. 40 Village Forest Development Committees are functioning to prevent poaching of birds, in addition to nine check posts. Two mobile checkposts monitor suspicious activities in the sanctuary areas in coordination with the established check posts. This vigilance programme has established Nagrota Surian, Guglara, Tairess, Jambal Bassi, Nandpur Bhatoli and Dehra as dwelling places for the migratory birds.
  • To check siltation of the reservoir and to provide bird nesting places, plantation of the peripheral area of the lake has been undertaken in a large way.
  • The Protected Area Management Plan envisages boundary protection, habitat improvement, tourism and regulation, roads and staff quarters and so forth.
  • One of the islands in the reservoir has been named Ramsar (after the Ramsar Convention) and developed for nature conservation education, complete with rest house and boating facility.
  • Organised reservoir fishing with full support of the Department of Fisheries has provided opportunities to reservoir Oustee (project affected people due to submergence) families to take up fishing as a profession. As per the last report, more than 1789 fishermen are engaged in fishing activities which generates secondary benefits to more than 1000 families. A large number of Fishermen Cooperative Societies are functioning in the reservoir.


Preferred Books : Birds of Kangra by Jan Willem Den Besten ( Moonpeak Publishers and Mosaic Books )

Unique Retreat near Pong Dam “Basunti”  - Idyllic private lakeside retreat  surrounded by water and with commanding views of the Himalayas. It sits at the heart of a designated wildlife reserve and has been developed sympathetically in accord with the local environment.


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