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Odisha: Doubts over safety of 65-year-old Hirakud Reservoir

Any breach in dam will wipe out half of the state: Sudarsan Das

Subhashish Mohanty Bhubaneswar Published 26.08.22, 02:39 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File photo

Question marks are being raised over the safety of the 65-year-old Hirakud Reservoir built over the Mahanadi river in Odisha after the chief engineer, dam safety, asked his officials to hold a special inspection to find out whether the dam has developed any cracks that may pose a serious threat to its structure.

The letter has sparked a political debate in the state with its coastal belt still reeling under the impact of a medium-intensity flood in the Mahanadi river system.


Both the Congress and the BJP have demanded that the government make a statement clarifying that there is no threat to the safety of the dam.

“The existence of Odisha depends on the Hirakud Reservoir as millions of people depend on the Mahanadi river system. Any breach in Hirakud would wipe out half of the state,” warned Sudarsan Das, convener of Mahanadi Bachao Andolan (save Mahanadi campaign).

On the other hand, the ruling party BJD maintained that there is no threat to the safety of the dam structure. In his letter to the chief engineer and basin manager, Mahanadi basin, Burla, the chief engineer, dam safety, Sibasish Padhi, raised the issue of how in January 2020 the Dam Safety Review Panel (DSRP) had recommended the study of crack at operation gallery, foundation gallery, gate shaft and sluice barrages of both left and right spillway of Hirakud dam.

Padhi reminded how a survey was to be taken at least once in every five years as per the DSRP recommendation and how no fresh survey has been undertaken since 1999 and mapping of the new cracks was necessary along with the status of the old cracks.

Padhi also reminded how the panel had suggested that the exercise of crack mapping was to be extended to the foundation gallery and videography to be extended to the power dam portion.

As the issue snowballed into a major controversy and the Opposition demanded to know the status of the Hirakud dam, the officials pointed out there was no threat to the structure.

Chief engineer and basin manager, Mahanadi basin, Ananda Chandra Sahu, said: “The cracks that have been noticed are air cracks. These are commonly noticed in concrete structure and hydraulic structure. Our technical personnel conduct a visual inspection by entering inside the operation gallery, and foundation gallery at different points of time and if we notice more such cracks, we will go for a special survey.”

Former engineer-in-chief of the water resources department, Ramesh Tripathy, said: “Many times repair work has been undertaken using different technologies. Though there is no immediate threat to the structure, we should not remain complacent.”

Sharpening her attack on the government, BJP senior leader Pravati Parida said: “Chief minister had held the water resources department portfolio for a long time. We need an assurance from the chief minister that there is no threat to the structure.”

Sudarsan Das said: “The life tenure of a dam is nearly 100 years. Now the Hirakud has completed 65 years. It's time to put more stress on the safety of the dam. We want to know why no survey has been made in the last five years.”

“Unnecessary politics is being done on the issue of Mahanadi. Earlier it was flood management and now the Hirakud dam. Let us concentrate on the rehabilitation of people,” said senior BJD leader and minister Samir Ranjan Dash.

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