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Threat looms over Hirakud dam power station
- Seepage gets aggravated due to continuous rainfall across state over past two months

Bhubaneswar, May 28: The Hirakud dam, once described as temple of modern India by the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, is now under threat due to seepage of water.

After the reported leak, the state government today decided to approach the National Level Dam Safety Panel, seeking its advice on what possible measure could be taken to repair the parts of the dam weakened by the leakage of water.

The seepage has been detected at the Hirakud Hydro Electric Project at Burla, a part of the dam. “During annual inspection of the project, profuse water seepage is observed in the inspection gallery of the power dam from upstream of the Hirakud reservoir, creating danger to the dam safety,” said a senior official of the water resources department.

Regular seepage of water has been detected in the dam in the past few months. The seepage has also been aggravated because of the continuous rainfall across the state, including in Sambalpur district. The district has already received more than 30mm rainfall in the past two days. The seepage problem will pose a major threat in the coming days, especially in rains when the flood is imminent in the state, sources said.

Though the field officials posted at the Hirakud reservoir have already communicated it in writing to the water resources and energy department, no steps have been taken for its repair because of the lack of co-ordination between the two departments. “The part is maintained by the Odisha Hydro Power Corporation. As they have not handed over to us, steps have not been taken to repair it,” said a senior official.

Local executive engineer of the corporation Yaswant Parida admitted that there was leakage. “Let me check the extent of damage,” he said.

What made it worse is that the additional pumping arrangement is also not capable to check the leakage. “Lot of water potential is being wasted, which could have been used for power generation. Rather additional electric energy is being wasted to pump this water. Therefore, it is an alarming condition,” chief engineer (projects) stated in his letter to the state government, arguing for timely action.

Chief engineer of the dam safety Prasanna Kumar Mohanty said: “The file has not come to my table till date. We will certainly take up steps to protect the dam as well as the hydro electric project.” Mohanty said regular steps were also being taken to keep the Hirakud project safe. “Four years ago, repair had taken place. In last March, we did to some extent,” he said.

Chief engineer of the Mahanadi upper basin Biswajit Mohanty said: “The corporation maintain this part of the project. We have discussed this issue at the highest level. The matter will be referred to the safety panel on what possible measure could be taken to repair the parts.”

“Similar leakage was there in the spillway dam earlier. They have plugged it to some extent by grouting the dam pitting from the upstream by engaging some international expert. We will do the same thing,” an official said.

The dam is the longest earthen dam in Asia, measuring 25.8km, including dykes and stands across the Mahanadi river. It supports two hydroelectric power houses. The project was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on January 13, 1957.