Umiam Lake (Barapani), Shillong
Commonly referred to as the Barapani Lake by locals, the Umiam Lake has been praised for its beauty and serenity. Itís actually a reservoir located in the hills about 15 kms below Shillong on Guwahati Ė Shillong route. The original catchment area of the Umiam Lake and Dam exceeds 220 sq. km.
Though Umiam is known mostly for its status as a tourist attraction... itís also worth noting that its dam is an important source of hydroelectric power generation (an idea that was incepted by the Assam State Electricity Board in 1960). 4 stages of the Umiam Project are now operational.
Umiam Lake is central to the ecosystem of Meghalaya as itís an important source of downstream irrigation processes, fishery and source of drinking water. Itís said that the Umiam holds an incredible variety of marine life... some of which remain undiscovered.
Umiam has become a hub for water sports and adventure tourism activities. Some common activities held in Umiam are scooting, water cycling and boating. The large water sports complex comprising of the Nehru Park and Orchid Tourist Home is the epicenter of tourism activities. The water sports complex is open from 8am to 5pm (Phone: 91-364-2222731).
Umiam Lake near Shillong
Some activities and their rates in the Water Sports Complex are as follows
5 minute water skiing ride costs Rs 200 per person
One hour yachting costs Rs 100 per person
20 minutes River Bus Ride costs Rs 50 per person
5 minute high speed boat ride costs Rs 75 per person
5 minute water scooter ride costs Rs 150 per person
10 minute ride on river boat cruise costs RS 10 per person
20 minute pedal boat/ canoe ride/ kayaking costs Rs 200 per person
Scuba diving facilities only available in winter
All rates are subject to periodic revision.
Photo: Meghalaya Tourism
The Umiam Lake has very nice picnic spots surrounding it and these are arguably some of the best places for nature watching in Shillong. There is a small park for the benefit of kids. Incidentally, if you are flying in to Shillong... you can glimpse the jade green Umiam from the window as you start your descent. The lake is a good place to stopover before you enter Shillong or when you leave Shillong by road. The lake and its associated activities can take up 2 to 3 hours of your time (if you intend to indulge in Water sports too).
There are numerous snack shops around for you to sip on coffee, momos, croissants etc. For a proper lunchÖyou can visit the Ginger restaurant thatís just a stoneís throw away. Stay at the Orchid Resort or Ri Kyinjai if you want to make Umiam Lake the base for your Shillong trip.
On the flip side it seems rather disappointing that the Orchid Resort doesnít allow tourists to enter and admire the lovely view of Umiam from its grounds unless one is a guest or is lunching there. Also, itís better to avoid this area in the monsoons as the sand pits become soggy and there are quite dubious wet patches around.
Unfortunately, the lovely Umiam faces threats of increased toxicity and silting due to the rising population of Shillong and its heavy tourist flow. People keep dumping waste in the lake despite strict laws and the lake has already become much polluted. Itís estimated that 40,000 cubic meters of mud and silt enter Umiam annually and the principal reasons are deforestation, disruption of natural drainage systems, unscientific mining, encroachments etc. Right now the Umiam is at the centre of nature activism in Meghalaya and this is an issue that should receive more awareness.