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Bhakra brimming with danger

Danger rising with the level of water in the reservoir of Bhakra dam, fear has inundated engineers watching the mark. The melting of snow caps on the mountains has let hazard cascade into Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Less discharge from the dam, the forecast of 98% monsoon have further built up a 2010- and 2011-like situation when the water spilled over the two states as the lake had more water coming in than going out.

punjab Updated: Jun 01, 2013 00:33 IST
Vishal Rambani

Danger rising with the level of water in the reservoir of Bhakra dam, fear has inundated engineers watching the mark.

The melting of snow caps on the mountains has let hazard cascade into Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Less discharge from the dam, the forecast of 98% monsoon have further built up a 2010- and 2011-like situation when the water spilled over the two states as the lake had more water coming in than going out.

Members of the All-India Power Engineers Association (AIPEF) have raised the matter with the union government and questioned the Bharkra Beas Management Board's (BBMB's) policy of over conserving water. The board's failing to upgrade two units in time is being blamed for not only the shortage of electricity but also the reduction in the water discharge by 6,000 cusecs every day.

The engineers have pleaded the union government for intervention to avoid the repeat of 2010 and 2011. "The involvement will make the BBMB take measure in time to maximise electricity generation from Bhakra and slow down the reservoir's filling," said Padamjit Singh, chairman of the All-India Power Engineers Association (AIPEF).

In case units 2 and 5 at Bhakra are not revived, the chances of spillage will increase correspondingly. "The commissioning schedules of these units have been delayed about a dozen times," said Padamjit Singh.

On April 26, when the Indian meteorological department forecast 98% monsoon, the BBMB should have responded by increasing electricity generation. "The reservoir is filling fast, whereas the board hasn't released enough water," said Padamjit Singh. "The same mistake was committed in 2010 and 2011."

The present BBMB chairman is in charge since 2010. "The obvious corrective measure is to let go of more volume during the depletion period for more cushion to absorb the inflow during monsoon," said the AIPEF chairman. The water level on May 30 was 16.5 m more than the 2010 level and only a meter below the 2011 mark when it spilled over two states.

At this rate, the water will reach the dam's height on August 20 and go 10 metres over on August 31. The full reservoir level is 1,690 feet and but restricted to 1,680 feet practically. Even if release stays static, the water will be enough to flow 11.63 feet over the dam's height.

The BBMB can take two decisions: first to allow the filling of reservoir up to the 1,685-foot limit without spillage, and second to maximise release to minimise spillage.

Level on May 30

2013 2012 2011 2010
478 468 479 462

All figures in metres