iconimg Sunday, August 30, 2015

Vishal Rambani and Vinay Dhingra, Hindustan Times
Patiala/Pathankot, August 01, 2013
Heavy rain in the wee hours of Thursday flooded the Ranjit Sagar Dam (RSD) hydroelectric power project, rendering the 450-MW plant out of operation.It will take at least three days to make the project operational again. If the turbines are damaged, production may remain suspended for more than 15 days.

The strong current of water in the Thein Nullah, which flows near the RSD power plant at Shahpur Kandi (Pathankot), breached the protection wall close to the powerhouse gate. As a result, gushing water, along with a heavy load of silt and muck, entered the powerhouse.

The incident occurred around 3:40 am. The machines in the power house were immediately stopped and supplies switched off to prevent damage and short circuit.The maintenance of the Thein Nullah falls under the purview of Punjab irrigation department.

The fire brigade saved 16 project employees, including an executive engineer, who were trapped during night duty when a gush of silt and gravel damaged the turbines, interrupting the production of electricity.

"The water in the powerhouse was 4-ft deep," said project director Mukhtar Singh. "It came in through a 35-metre breach in the Thein Nullah wall, weakened by heavy rain. "The irrigation department should have maintained it," he added.

Refuting the charge of poor maintenance, executive engineer RL Mittal said the irrigation department did all it could, including raising the height of the Thein nullah wall from 4 ft to 10 ft to accommodate all the water from Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. "It was the pressure of heavy rainfall that broke the structure, for which none can be blamed. Besides, the powerhouse is in a low region," he said.

KD Chaudhri, chairman-cum-managing director, Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL), said, "Heavy rain flooded the Thein Nullah and water entered the project premises. This has resulted in a loss of about 450MW of power from the Ranjit Sagar Dam."

He added that as per an initial assessment, no major damage had been done, "but the bearings of the generating units, inspection and cleaning of generator internals, together with cleaning of the powerhouse, and clearing of the silt will have to be done."

Chaudhri said efforts were being made on a war footing to complete necessary work as soon as possible.

On the restoration of power generation, Chaudhri said it was too early to make a definite assessment, but it was expected that generation would be revived shortly.

Meanwhile, the PSPCL has formed a committee to find out the reasons for the flooding. A committee comprising the engineer-in-chief, hydel projects; deputy chief engineer, Ranjit Sagar power project; and deputy chief engineer, Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC) powerhouse; will analyse the circumstances which led to the incident, assess the damage and suggest corrective measures.