The wetland jewel of the Far Western Terai
Ghodaghodi Tal, a freshwater lake is a Ramsar site in western Nepal. It was established in August 2003, at an altitude of 205 m from the sea level. It covers an area of 2,563 hectares of the Kailali District on the lower slopes of the Siwalik Hills. The lake's name ‘Ghodaghodi’ is derived from the Nepali word for meaning male and female horses. Ghodaghodi Tal is collectively composed of nine different lakes, namely, Ghodaghodi, Ojhuwa, Purbi Ojhuwa, Chaitya, Baishawan, Sunpokhari, Nakhrodi, Budhi Nakhrodi and Ramphal.
According to the legend, a hermit crushed Lord Shiva and Parvati into a horse. Then, God Shiva and Goddess Parvati used to encircle around the lake. Now, Ghodaghodi Lake is an important place of worship for the local Tharu people. A small temple is located on the banks of the lake. Many Tharus gather during the Agahan Panchami and Maghi Festivals. Here, they offer horses, elephants, and tigers made out of clay to the Goddess Gauri Mata in order for their wishes to come true.
The lake is a natural oxbow lake consisting of a complex system of around 13 large and shallow lakes and ponds, including Nakhrodi lake and other associated marshes and meadows. It is surrounded by tropical deciduous forest and some streams along the periphery, which are separated by hillocks. These lakes are encircled by tree forest, shrub forest and agriculture forest giving the lake its natural beauty. The lake has a record of 388 vascular plants: five pteridophytes, 253 dicots, and 130 monocots.
The forest and wetlands serve as a wildlife corridor between the Terai lowland and the Siwalik Hills. They support critically endangered and vulnerable species including Bengal Tiger, Smooth Coated Otter, Eurasian Otter, Swamp Deer, Lesser Adjutant, Marsh Crocodile, Red-Crowned Turtle and Three Striped Roofed Turtle.
Ghodaghodi lake region is an important habitat for birds in Nepal. It acts as a staging post for migrating wetland birds and is home to both native and overwintering species. A total amount of 140 bird species have been recorded in the lake area, including the globally threatened; Lesser Adjutant and the near-threatened; Darter.
The lake has become an integral part of the people living around the lake. Since the surrounding area is highly productive, it provides good opportunities for farming and grazing livestock. Not only that, but the lake also serves the people with fodder, fuelwood, a chance to increase tourism and a great place to fish. Ghodaghodi lake has helped maintain the microclimate of the region and importantly flood mitigation and replenishment of groundwater.
However, as the population is on the rise, internal migration, and the need for agricultural land intensifies, wetlands get threatened. Grazing by animals, picking wild mushrooms, firewood collection, fishing and logging is done in a haphazard manner. No regulatory measures have been adopted. The greed for higher productivity has led to the encroachment of the marshy area of the wetland. This act has a direct impact on aquatic and terrestrial animals. The local authorities and the District Forest Office are doing their best to protect the wetland. They have imposed strict law and fenced the lake area to protect the lake.