Hirakud, 60, needs another spillway for safety and longevity

Sambalpur: The Hirakud Dam, one of the marvels of modern engineering in India, needs another spillway for extending its life and minimising the floodwater pressure on the dam.

The reason why Asia’s largest river dam requires an extra spillway is its mammoth earthen portion. While the dam’s full length is 15,748 feet, the length of the earthen portion is 11,980 feet and the concrete portion’s length is only 3,768 feet. And, the length of right and left side dyke is 35, 500 feet and 32, 275 feet respectively.

The dam’s water storage area measures 743 square kilometres. While its height is 642 feet, its maximum water holding capacity is 630 feet.

The work for Hirakud Dam across River Mahanadi, about 15 km from Sambalpur, was started in 1948 and January 13, 1957 then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated it.

With the dam completing 60 years, concerns are being raised about the earthen portion of the dam and its safety. There are also apprehensions about the project’s life span if the fears are not addressed now. Among the remedial measures suggested is building another spillway.

The dam has presently 98 gates of which 64 are sluice and 34 are crest through which 15 lakh cusecs of water per second can be released. The new spillway, if constructed, will increase the total volume to 24 lakh cusecs per second which will give an extra strength to the dam. Keeping this in mind, the dam authority has already given a report to the Central Water Commission in this regard.

The new spillway can be built from the rear of the Gandhi Minar hill and water will flow into Mahanadi near Jawahar Garden.

This project requires 359 acres of land. The district administration held a public hearing September 26, 2017 to discuss the issue with the villagers who are likely to be displaced. Sources said the new project would displace 716 dwellings of Laxmi Nagar, Gandhi Nagar, Tora Nagar, Cable Colony and Gojatala Colony of Hirakud municipal area.

The displaced people are said to be rehabilitated by providing land at Chipilima, Basantpur, Solapali and Larabhanga areas. Those who wish to have houses at Solapali and Larabhanga, each will get two decimal lands and four decimal lands each would be given to those who opt for Chipilima and Basantpur. Besides, each family going to be displaced would get an amount of Rs 3, 28,000 as compensation, it is learnt.

The Hirakud project had affected 22,000 families in total, of that, 19,000 families were displaced from their homes. From among the displaced ones, only 2243 families were rehabilitated in 17 places. The rest of the families are still struggling with various problems living in several places around the dam.

While the problems of the displaced people have remained unresolved, the very thought of further displacement is sending shockwaves among villagers, earmarked to be displaced.

When contacted, Sitanshu Tripathy, land acquisition officer, maintained the step is required for the safety and longevity of the dam. And, the World Bank has announced special packages for those who are going to be affected by this project.  PNN


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