Umiam Lake
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Umiam Lake is also known as Barapani or Big Water and is a scenic place tucked away amidst the hills of Meghalaya, around 15 Km from Shillong. The origin of Umiam Lake in 1965 due to the Umiam Umtru Hydro Electric Power Project roughly coincides with the birth of the State of Meghalaya in 1972. The lake, spread over an area of 10 square km, has the distinction of being primarily an artificial reservoir for the first hydel project in the Northeast. The confluence of the two streams Umkhrah and Umshvrpi form the Wah Ro-ro stream in the north-west of the town and joins River Umiam, the main source of water for the lake. The principal catchment area of the lake and dam is spread over 220 square km, which includes Shillong and its adjoining areas, besides a portion of Ri Bhoi district.

Existence of Umiam Lake goes beyond mere power generation. It provides a large number of ecosystem services at micro, meso and macro levels. Downstream irrigation, fisheries and drinking water (Rangmen Cantonment Area) cater to local anthropogenic needs. The Lake is popular venue for the water sport and adventure facilities. Thousands of tourists visit this spot for kayaking, water cycling, scooting and boating. Almost all tourist facilities are available at the Umiam Lake. The lake has been developed by the Meghalaya Touurism Department in spite of the fact that the management of the lake lies completely with the Meghalaya State Electricity Board.

Rapid urban growth has transformed Umiam into a sink for Shillong’s waste and natural streams/rivers feeding the lake into open drains. Recent research by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) confirms that the water in the rivers Umkrah and Umshyrpi is contaminated with sewage. Such polluted river systems enter Umiam and alter its biological character. As per CPCB norms for lakes and other surface water bodies, Umiam is polluted and water is unfit for any domestic use except irrigation without conventional primary treatment. The pollution problem is further compounded increasing levels of silt in the streams & rivers and resultantly in Umiam. An estimated 40,000 cubic metres of silt enter Umiam Lake every year. Causes range between upstream encroachments, deforestation, blockage of natural drainage systems and unscientific mining et al in the catchment area. Excessive silt load in the lake has lowered the storage.

In 2000, a detailed study was carried out by the state to clean and desilt the lake. A private firm was even hired to prepare a report on the hydrology, sedimentation and pollution of the lake. The North East Council had submitted a proposal of Rs. 19.92 crores to revive the lake after going through the report. The proposal has not been implemented till date. The life of the dam was estimated to be around 200 years at the time of commissioning. Yet hydrographic survey, water-quality analysis and catchment assessment, including sediment flow rate data, reveal the astounding fact that Umiam Lake will not survive for more than 30 to 35 years if the existing situation continues unabated. Recently the Union Minister of Environment and Forest, Jairam Ramesh, has assured of visiting Shillong and discuss the details of the steps to be taken to revive the lake’s ecology.


D. Paul, Professor
Centre for Environment Studies (CES)
North East Hill University (NEHU),
Shillong 793 022

Scientist ‘C’ , Meghalaya Stae Pollution Control Board
ARDEN, Lumpyngngad
E mail:
Phone: 0364-2521514, Fax: 2521764

Kasturi Chakraborty,
North East Space Application Centre (NESAC)
Shillong, Meghalaya
  Dr. P.K. Ghosh,
Indian Centre for Agricultural Research (ICAR)
Umroi Road, Barapani 793103
Phone: 0364-264257, 264372

Meghalaya State Electricity Board
Lum Jingshai, Short Round Road
Shillong 793001
Fax : 0364-2591345, 2591174; 2590355
(O) 2570160 (R) 2591113
Mob. 09436160872
Contact person
Shri L.S. Tariang, CE (C) (HP&SH)

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