Published on January 28th, 2013 | by Maw0
Serenity by the lake, Umiam, Meghalaya, India
Not many people have the opportunity to savor nature’s beauty right at their back door. For the people of Shillong in the North Eastern state of Meghalaya, India, nature has always been close to their hearts and homes. 15 Km away from the capital city, Meghalaya boast of having one of the most picturesque man made water body called the “Umiam Lake” translated from Khasi as “Crying Water” or the “Barapani Lake” in Hindi; this lake has the distinction of being the first Hydel power project in the North East Region and rightly so, this man made dam serves its purpose of providing electricity to the state of Meghalaya and a few other states in the North Eastern Region. Not only that the lake has immense electricity generation capabilities, it also serves as a source of irrigation for villages downstream and caters to the needs of villages surrounding the dam with drinking water, fisheries and a sturdy source of income through tourism.
Umiam Lake or “Dam site” locally known is like a welcoming postcard for visitors who travel through the Guwahati – Shillong Highway. Driving through this winding highway, ascending up to the hills of Meghalaya from the plains of Assam, a visitor or a traveler is welcomed by this beautiful lake 15 Km just before reaching the small and beautiful town of Shillong. Set at this beautiful valley with hills on one side and pine trees lining the edge of the lake, one is mesmerized by the enchanting beauty of this place. The most common sight you would see at this dam is fishermen lining the shores with their locally made fishing poles made of bamboo. Fishing is like a past time sport for the people of Shillong and throughout the year, people of different ages, men, women and children flock to this dam to enjoy a bit of fishing and picnicking. For the serious angler this dam is the best thing which could have happened; easy to reach and very close from home they sometimes fight just to get the best fishing spot and it’s all in the love of the sport. Ask anyone in Shillong and they will tell you how crazy they are about fishing and you will hear them speak of the Umiam Lake as a place to be when it comes to fishing.
I remember my fishing trips with my uncles; always filled with fun and excitement; camping overnight fully equipped with supplies to cook, cylinder gas and everything that you can imagine which you can find in a kitchen. Some of these trips I will never forget; the trip not only includes fishing but a lot of fun things like a bonfire and one of my uncles singing all thorough the night playing his guitar and singing out all the best hits of yesteryear’s; I will never forget that feeling.
As a boy I was intrigued by the calmness of this dam during the day and its roughness during the night, with winds howling like wolves threatening to rip our tent apart; but as soon as the morning breaks calmness returns to this beautiful lake and its shimmers like gold with every rays of sunlight hitting its crystal clear water. You are greeted by women selling tea and breakfast in their small canoe; they row from camp sites to camp sites offering a nice cup of tea and wonderful “chola batura”.
Umiam Lake is also a tourist hot spot for the locals and outsiders alike. It’s a popular destination for water sport and adventure sports. The Government of Meghalaya has set up a beautiful park called the “Lum Nehru Park” (Lum meaning Hill in Khasi) in the area and there is also a resort called the “Orchid Lake Resort” hosting Executive, Deluxe and Regular rooms. Another recent resort which came up is the “Ri Kynjai” translates from “Khasi” as “Land of Serene Environs”. I have personally visited all these three places and all these places are in a class of their own and if anyone happens to visit this lake please don’t miss to visit Nehru Park for a nice relaxing time, have your picnic basket ready and enjoy the cool breeze and warm sunlight during the evening. Visit the “Ri Kynjai” for a nice evening dinner with family and friends; you will be surprised how serene and calm these places are.
Nature is always at a threat anywhere and Umiam Lake is not immune to this threat. Increasing population in Shillong has made the rivers which flows to the lake heavily polluted. Encroachment upstream, deforestation and blockage of natural drainage system has cause heavy silting and this has lowered the storage capacity of the lake.
We can only enjoy the serene beauty of such a place but we will never understand the dangers that causes to the natural habitat of a particular place if we don’t start realizing that we are not the only ones who are existing in this beautiful planet of ours. Umiam Lake will become toxic in no time if we keep dumping our own wastes in the rivers and streams which flow to this dam; so it’s about time that we start preserving this beautiful water body so that we can enjoy its serenity for years to come.