The Sambhar Salt Lake, India
's largest inland salt lake, sits 96 km south west of the city of Jaipur
(Northwest India) and 64 km north east of Ajmer
along National Highway 8 in Rajasthan. The lake is actually an extensive saline wetland, with water depths fluctuating from as few as 60 centimetres (24 in) during the dry season to about 3 meters (10 ft) after the monsoon season. It occupies an area of 190 to 230 square kilometers, based on the season. It is an elliptically shaped lake 35.5 km long with a breadth varying between 3 km and 11 km. The circumference of the lake is 96 km, surrounded on all sides by the Aravali hills.
The Sambhar lake basin is divided by a 5.1 km long dam made of sand stone. After salt water reaches a certain concentration, it will be released from the west side to the eastern side by lifting dam gates. To the east of the dam are salt evaporation ponds where salt has been farmed for a thousand years. This eastern area is 80 km². and comprises salt reservoirs, canals and salt pans separated by narrow widges. To the east of the dam is a railroad, built by the British (before India’s independence) to provide access from Sambhar Lake City to the salt works.
The nearest airport is Sanganer
and the nearest railway station is Sambhar. The water is fed to the lake from streams from the rivers Mendha, Runpangarh, Khandel and Karian. The Mendha and Rupangarh are main streams. The Mendha flows from south to north and the Rupangarh flows from north to south.
It is India's largest saline lake and made Rajasthan the third largest salt producing state in India. It produces 196,000 tonnes of clean salt every year, which equals 8.7% of India's salt production. Salt is produced by evaporation process of brine and is mostly managed by Shambar Salts Ltd.(SSL), a joint venture of the Hindustan Salts Ltd. and the state government. SSL owns 3% of the eastern lake.
Sambhar has been designated as a Ramsar site (recognized wetland of international importance) because the wetland is a key wintering area for tens of thousands of flamingos and other birds that migrate from northern Asia
. The specialized algae and bacteria growing in the lake provide striking water colours and support the lake ecology that, in turn, sustains the migrating waterfowl.