Astronomers, students join hands to save Lonar crater lake

A group of astronomers and students from the city have decided to save Lonar crater, the only salt water lake in the country created by meteoric impact, from encroachment, drainage water and use of pesticides on nearby land. Khagol Vishwa, a city-based amateur astronomer's group, along with the Lonar Mitra Mandal, a few students and experts have decided to take up measures to not only save the lake but also get it listed as a world heritage site.

Located in Buldhana district, some 400 kilometres from Pune, the crater, which earlier was believed to have formed out of volcanic activities was actually created due to a meteoric impact close to 50,000 years ago. The site is well known for its rich bio-diversity. The forest inside the crater is home to about 180 different species of spiders, of which two are found only here. It also has 75 varieties of birds. However, due to human interference and absence of government intervention in preserving the site, more and more trees are being cut. The drainage system of the Lonar village, situated near the crater, divert the water into the crater's lake which is diluting the water.

Mayuresh Prabhune, president of Khagol Vishwa, who has been studying the crater for some years, said, all these problems have led to the decrease in the pH value of water. "Till a few years ago, the water at Lonar had a pH value of 14 but due to human interference its value now is 11 and is decreasing," he said.

Stressing on the importance of the water in the crater, Sudhakar Bugdane, founder of Lonar Mitra Mandal, said, "Due to its high alkalinity, the water in the crater is an important source of study. However, the presence of a percolation tank is leading to an increase in the water level harming the forests surrounding the lake. The forest department is ignoring the fact that villagers are cutting trees on the site. Also, people use the water for bathing and other domestic purposes."

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