Pangong Tso

Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake (Tibetan: སྤང་གོང་མཚོ;[3] Chinese: 班公错; pinyin: Bān gōng cuò; Hindi: पैंगोंग झील) is an endorheic lake spanning eastern Ladakh and West Tibet situated at an elevation of 4,225 m (13,862 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and divided into five sublakes, called Pangong Tso, Tso Nyak, Rum Tso (twin lakes) and Nyak Tso. Approximately 50% of the length of the overall lake lies within Tibet, 40% in Ladakh and the rest is disputed but controlled by China. The lake is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 km2. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. It has a land-locked basin separated from the Indus River basin by a small elevated ridge, but is believed to have been part of the latter in prehistoric times.[4]

Pangong Tso
A view of Pangong Tso
A view of Pangong Tso
Location of Pangong Lake
Location of Pangong Lake
Pangong Tso
Location of Pangong Lake
Location of Pangong Lake
Location of Pangong Lake
Pangong Tso
Pangong Tso (Ladakh)
Location of Pangong Lake
Location of Pangong Lake
Pangong Tso
Pangong Tso (Tibet)
LocationLeh district (Ladakh, India),
Rutog County (Tibet, China)
Coordinates33°43′04.59″N 78°53′48.48″E / 33.7179417°N 78.8968000°E / 33.7179417; 78.8968000Coordinates: 33°43′04.59″N 78°53′48.48″E / 33.7179417°N 78.8968000°E / 33.7179417; 78.8968000
TypeSoda lake
dimictic lake (east basin)[1]
cold monomictic lake (west basin)[citation needed]
Basin countriesChina, India
Max. length134 km (83 mi)
Max. width5 km (3.1 mi)
Surface areaapprox. 700 km2 (270 sq mi)
Max. depth330 ft. (100 m)
Surface elevation4,225 metres (13,862 ft)[2]
Frozenduring winter
Pangong Tso
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese班公錯
Simplified Chinese班公错
Tibetan name
Tsomo Nganglha Ringpo
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese錯木昂拉仁波
Simplified Chinese錯木昂拉仁波
Alternative Chinese name
Simplified Chinese哥木克哥那喇令错
Tibetan name

The lake is in the process of being identified under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. This will be the first trans-boundary wetland in South Asia under the convention.


Historically, the lake is viewed as being made up five sublakes, which are connected through narrow water channels. The name Pangong Tso only applied to the westernmost lake that is mostly in Ladakh. The main lake on the Tibetan side is called Tso Nyak (the "middle lake"). It is followed by two small lakes called Rum Tso. The last lake near Rutog is called Nyak Tso again.[5][6] The whole lake group was and is still often referred to as Tsomo Nganglha Ringpo (Tibetan: མཚོ་མོ་ངང་ལྷ་རིང་པོ[3]) in Tibetan.

There are different interpretations on the meanings of both Pangong Tso and Tsomo Nganglha Ringpo. The Ladakh government website indicates "Pangong Tso" is Tibetan meaning "high grassland lake",[7] however travel books from decades back say Pangong means "hollow".[8][9] Tsomo Nganglha Ringpo is Tibetan that is interpreted to mean various different but similar meanings -- "long, narrow, enchanted lake" by Chinese media sources,[10] "female narrow very long lake" by early European explorers,[11] and "long-necked swan lake" by other modern sources.[12][13] The lake has also been referred to as Pan-kung Hu.

Flora and faunaEdit

The eastern part of the lake is fresh, with the content of total dissolved solids at 0.68 g/L, while the western part of the lake is saline, with the salinity at 11.02 g/L.[14] The brackish water[15] of the lake has very low micro-vegetation. Guides report that there are no fish or other aquatic life on the Indian side of the lake, except for some small crustaceans. On the other hand, visitors see numerous ducks and gulls over and on the lake surface. There are some species of scrub and perennial herbs that grow in the marshes around the lake.

The lake acts as an important breeding ground for a variety of birds including a number of migratory birds. During summer, the Bar-headed goose and Brahmini ducks are commonly seen here.[16] The region around the lake supports a number of species of wildlife including the kiang and the marmot. The lake hosts large quantities of fish, especially Schizopygopsis stoliczkai[17] and Racoma labiata.[18]

Formerly, Pangong Tso had an outlet to Shyok River, a tributary of the Indus River, but it was closed off due to natural damming. Two streams feed the lake from the Indian side, forming marshes and wetlands at the edges.[19] Strand lines above current lake level reveal a 5 m (16 ft) thick layer of mud and laminated sand, suggesting the lake has shrunken recently in geological scale.[15] On the Indian side, no fish have been observed, however in the stream coming from South-eastern side (Cheshul nalla), three fish species (Schizopygopsis stoliczkae, Tibetan stone loach and Triplophysa gracilis) have been reported (Bhat et al., 2011). The low biodiversity has been reported as being due to high salinity and harsh environmental conditions (Bhat et al., 2011).

Bird Islet is the most famous island in Pangong Tso.[20]



Frozen, Pangong Tso

An Inner Line Permit is required to visit the lake as it lies on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control. While Indian nationals can obtain individual permits, others must have group permits (with a minimum of three persons) accompanied by an accredited guide; the tourist office in Leh issues the permits for a small fee. For security reasons, India does not permit boating.

China National Highway 219 passes by the eastern end of Pangong Tso. The lake can be accessed by driving 12 km from Rutog or 130 km from Shiquanhe. Tourists can rent a boat on the lake, but landing on islands is not allowed for protecting the breeding ground of the birds. There are several restaurants along the shore.[21]

Edward Weller map of Ladakh and Garhwal, 1863
Map including Pangong Tso (AMS, 1954)[a]
Map including Pangong Tso / Bangong Co (DMA, 1992)

Sino-Indian border disputeEdit

Contested LAC near the Pangong Lake[22][b]
with "fingers" – mountain spurs jutting into the lake[23]

Pangong Tso is in disputed territory. The Line of Actual Control passes through the lake. A section of the lake approximately 20 km east from the Line of Actual Control is controlled by China but claimed by India. The eastern end of the lake is in Tibet. After the mid-19th century, Pangong Tso was at the southern end of Johnson Line, an early attempt at demarcation between India and China in the Aksai Chin region.

The Khurnak Fort lies on the northern bank of the lake, halfway of Pangong Tso.[24] The Chinese has controlled the Khurnak Fort area since 1952.[25][26][unreliable source?] To the south is the smaller Spanggur Tso lake.

On 20 October 1962, Pangong Tso saw military action during the Sino-Indian War, successful for the Communist People's Liberation Army.[27]

Pangong Tso is still a delicate border point along the Line of Actual Control.[28][29] Incursions from the Chinese side are common.[30]

In August 2017, Indian and Chinese forces near Pangong Tso threw rocks at each other.[31][32][33]

On September 11, 2019, People's Liberation Army troops confronted Indian troops on the northern bank of Pangong Lake.[34][35]

On May 5–6, 2020, there was a face-off between about 250 Indian and Chinese troops near Pangong Tso lake.[36][32][37][38] Four Indian and seven Chinese soldiers were injured.[39]

On 29–30 August 2020,Indian troops had occupied many heights on the south bank of Pangong Tso. The heights mentioned include Rezang La, Reqin La, Black Top, Hanan, Helmet, Gurung Hill, Gorkha Hill and Magar Hill.[40] Some of these heights are in the grey zone of the LAC and overlook Chinese camps.[41]


Pangong Tso

See alsoEdit


  2. ^ The LAC displayed is that marked by the OpenStreetMap editors, said to reflect the Chinese maps.


  1. ^ Wang, M., Hou, J. and Lei, Y., 2014. Classification of Tibetan lakes based on variations in seasonal lake water temperature. Chinese Science Bulletin, 59(34): 4847-4855.
  2. ^ Dortch et al., Catastrophic partial drainage of Pangong Tso (2011), p. 111.
  3. ^ a b "Ngari prefecture". Geographical names of Tibet AR (China). Institute of the Estonian Language. 3 June 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  4. ^ "River basins with Major and medium dams & barrages location map in India, WRIS". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  5. ^ Sven Anders Hedin (1907). Scientific Results of a Journey in Central Asia 1899-1902: Central and West Tibet. Lithographic institute of the General staff of the Swedish army. p. 521. From Noh to Bal Rawling followed the same route that I did along the northern shore of the Tso-ngombo, which he calls the Tso Mo Gualari, dividing it into the sections: Tso Nyak, the twin lakes Rum Tso and Nyak Tso. He says that it consists of a string of five lakes 120 m. in length, the four most southern of which are fresh, and Pangong, the most northerly, salt. They are joined together by channels about 60 feet in width and 15 feet deep, the current running at nearly 1½ mile an hour.
  6. ^ Saward, M. H. (1878). Routes in Asia: Routes in the territories of the Maharaja of Jummoo and Kashmir, and adjacent countries. Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing. pp. 31–33. Only the lower lake (the Pangong Tso proper) lies in Ladak, the middle (Tso Nyak) and upper lakes being in Rudok territory. ... The waters of the western end are much more salt than those of the eastern end near Ot. in the stream connecting the Pangong Tso with Nyak Tso the water becomes drinkable, and rich grass is found on the banks.
  7. ^ "Pangong Lake". Union Territory of Ladakh. 29 October 2019. Retrieved 9 January 2020. Pangong Lake, one of the most famous lakes in Leh Ladakh, derives its name from the Tibetan word, "Pangong Tso", which means "high grassland lake".
  8. ^ Michelle Coxall; Paul Greenway (1 September 1996). Indian Himalaya: a Lonely Planet travel survival kit. Lonely Planet. ISBN 978-0-86442-413-6. The salty Pangong Tso - Pangong means 'hollow' - is the highest lake in Ladakh at about 4300m, and is flanked by massive peaks over 6500m high.
  9. ^ Kirit Rindani (7 January 2016). Indian Himalaya: Story of a 100 Visits. Partridge Publishing India. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-4828-5886-0. The word Pangong means 'extensive concavity' which probably explains its size.
  10. ^ "Pangong Tso Lake in Tibet". China Daily. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2020. Pangong Tso Lake is a trans-border lake extending from the Ali prefecture of China's Tibet autonomous region to India. About 155 kilometers in length, the geographic features of the lake are indicated in the name which in Tibetan means "long, narrow, enchanted lake".
  11. ^ Trotter, H. (1877). "Account of the Pundit's Journey in Great Tibet from Leh in Ladakh to Lhasa, and of His Return to India Via Assam". Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London. 47: 86. doi:10.2307/1798740. ISSN 0266-6235. JSTOR 1798740. the Pangong, but better known to the Tibetans as the Chomo Gna Laring Cho, which, being literally interpreted, means "Female narrow very long lake."
  12. ^ "Pangong Tso Lake in the Northern Tibet". Kangba TV. 6 March 2017. Pangong Tso Lake, at an altitude of 4,200 meters, is also called Tsomo Nganglha Ringpo Lake, which means "a swan with a long neck" in Tibetan.
  13. ^ "Pangong Lake". Tibet Vista ( Archived from the original on 28 April 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2020. In the Tibetan language, this lake is called "Cuomu Angla Renbo Tso", which means "Long-Necked Crane Lake".
  14. ^ "班公错" (in Chinese).
  15. ^ a b R. K. Pant; N. R. Phadtare; L. S. Chamyal; Navin Juyal (10 June 2005). "Quaternary deposits in Ladakh and Karakoram Himalaya: A treasure trove of the palaeoclimate records". Current Science. 88 (11). Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  16. ^ Khan, Asif (2016). "Ladakh: The Land Beyond". Buceros. 21 (3): 6–15.
  17. ^ "Schizopygopsis stoliczkae". China Animal Scientific Database. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Racoma labiata". China Animal Scientific Database. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  19. ^ Biksham Gujja; Archana Chatterjee; Parikshit Gautam & Pankaj Chandan (August 2003). "Wetlands and Lakes at the Top of the World". Mountain Research and Development. Bern, Switzerland: International Mountain Society. 23 (3): 219–221. doi:10.1659/0276-4741(2003)023[0219:WALATT]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 1994-7151.
  20. ^ Dreams of Snow Land. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. 2005. pp. 273-275. ISBN 7-119-03883-4 – via Internet Archive.
  21. ^ 黄慧英 (4 August 2018). "一措再措 邂逅高原湖泊的绝美" (in Chinese). Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  22. ^ India, Ministry of External Affairs, ed. (1962), Report of the Officials of the Governments of India and the People's Republic of China on the Boundary Question, Government of India Press, Chinese Report, Part 1 (PDF) (Report). pp. 4–5.
    The location and terrain features of this traditional customary boundary line are now described as follows in three sectors, western, middle and eastern. ... From Ane Pass southwards, the boundary line runs along the mountain ridge and passes through peak 6,127 (approximately 78° 46' E, 38° 50' N) [sic] and then southwards to the northern bank of the Pangong Lake' (approximately 78° 49' E, 33° 44' N). It crosses this lake and reaches its southern bank at approximately 78° 43' E, 33° 40' N. Then it goes in a south-easterly direction along the watershed dividing the Tongada River and the streams flowing into the Spanggur Lake until it reaches Mount Sajum.
  23. ^ Lt Gen HS Panag (Retd) (4 June 2020). "India's Fingers have come under Chinese boots. Denial won't help us". The Print.
  24. ^ Negi, S.S. (1 April 2002). Himalayan Rivers, Lakes and Glaciers. India: Indus Publishing Company. p. 152. ISBN 978-8185182612. Retrieved 12 September 2009.
  25. ^ Guruswamy, Mohan (January 2006). Emerging Trends in India-China Relations. India: Hope India Publications. p. 223. ISBN 9788178711010. Retrieved 12 September 2009.
  26. ^ Mohan Guruswamy. "No longer a Great Game". Centre for Policy Alternatives, India. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007.
  27. ^ Burkitt, Laurie; Scobell, Andrew; Wortzel, Larry M. (July 2003). The Lessons of History: The Chinese People's Liberation Army at 75 (PDF). Strategic Studies Institute. pp. 340–341. ISBN 1-58487-126-1.
  28. ^ Manu Pubby. "Pangong Lake is border flashpoint between India and China". The Indian Express. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  29. ^ Sultan Shahin. "Vajpayee claps with one hand on border dispute". Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  30. ^ Jonathan Holslag (2008). "China, India and the Military Security Dilemma, Vol 3(5)" (PDF). BICCS Background Papers. Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies (BICCS). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  31. ^ 中共與印度邊境衝突!150士兵互毆10多人掛彩 [Another 150 soldiers in the Sino-Indian border conflict caused 12 injuries in a fight]. New Tang Dynasty Television (in Chinese). 11 May 2020. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  32. ^ a b 費風 (11 May 2020). 中印邊境再爆衝突 150士兵毆鬥釀12傷 [Another 150 soldiers in the Sino-Indian border conflict caused 12 injuries in a fight]. Hong Kong Economic Times (in Chinese). Retrieved 16 May 2020. 消息指,第一起事件發生於5月5日至6日,在中印邊境的班公錯湖(Pangong Tso )地區,當時解放軍的「侵略性巡邏」(aggressive patrolling)被印度軍方阻攔。「結果發生了混亂,雙方都有一些士兵受傷。」{...}2017年8月,兩國軍隊曾於拉達克地區班公湖附近爆發衝突,當時雙方擲石攻擊對方,雙方均有人受傷,最終兩軍在半小時後退回各自據點。
  33. ^ Sushant Singh (20 May 2020). "India-China conflict in Ladakh: The importance of the Pangong Tso lake". The Indian Express. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  34. ^ "Indian, Chinese Troops Face-off in Ladakh Ahead of Modi-Xi Summit, Army Says Tension De-escalated". CNN-News18. 12 September 2019. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  35. ^ Chang Ya-Han 張雅涵, ed. (10 March 2020). 中國在西藏地區軍演頻繁 牽動中印未來危機應對 [China's military exercises in Tibet frequently affect China and India's future crisis response]. Radio Taiwan International (in Chinese). Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  36. ^ Dinakar Peri (10 May 2020). "Indian, Chinese troops face off in Eastern Ladakh, Sikkim". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  37. ^ "Chinese military bolsters troops in Aksai Chin region in Sino-India border: Report". The Economic Times. 19 May 2020. Retrieved 19 May 2020. On May 5, around 250 Indian and Chinese army personnel clashed in Pangong Tso lake area in Eastern Ladakh.
  38. ^ "Chinese, Indian troops engage in border conflicts". Taiwan News. 25 May 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  39. ^ 'All-out combat' feared as India, China engage in border standoff
  40. ^ Dutta, Amrita Nayak (3 September 2020). "Army now holding 30 dominating heights, earlier unoccupied, on southern bank of Pangong Tso". ThePrint. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  41. ^ Sagar, Pradip R (2 September 2020). "India controls dominating heights in Chushul sector". The Week. Retrieved 8 September 2020.


Further readingEdit

  • [1] (Travel with Thinkarya)