Importance of Ladakh’s Pangong Tso Lake

Pangong Tso Lake is an endorheic lake (landlocked) located in eastern Ladakh. It lies partly in India’s Ladakh region and partly in Tibet. The lake is formed from Tethys geosyncline.

  • The lake literally translates into a “conclave lake”. Pangong means conclave in Ladakhi and Tso means a lake in the Tibetan language.
  • The Karakoram Mountain range which crosses Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and India ends at the north bank of Pangong Tso.
  • The lake’s water is crystal clear, brackish making it undrinkable. The lake freezes during the winter allowing some vehicular movement on it as well.
  • Who controls Pangong Tso?
    Nearly two-thirds of the lake is controlled by China with just about 45 km under Indian control. The Line of Actual Control(LAC) running north-south cuts the western part of the lake, aligned east-west.
  • Importance of the lake:
    • The legendary 19th century Dogra general Zorawar Singh is said to have trained his soldiers and horses on the frozen Pangong lake before invading Tibet.
    • The north of the lake, lies Army’s Dhan Singh Thapa post, named after Major Dhan Singh Thapa
    • LAC(Line of Actual Control) mostly passes on the land, but Pangong Tso is a unique case where it passes through the water as well
    • The importance of the lake is due to the fact that it lies in the path of the Chushul approach of China. (China uses Chushul valley for performing offensive activities into Indian-held territory).
    • Over the years, the Chinese have built motorable roads along their banks of the Pangong Tso
    • In 1999, when the Army unit moved to Kargil for Operation Vijay, China took the opportunity to build 5 km of the road inside Indian territory along the lake’s bank. This is used by China for tactical advantage.

Additional Facts:

  • Endorheic (Landlocked) Lake: It is a collection of water within an endorheic basin or sink, with no evident outlet. The Endorheic lakes are generally saline (unable to get rid of solutes left during evaporation).
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