Waking up after worst-ever tragedy of its kind caused by discharge of river water from the Larji Project without prior warning, the Himachal Pradesh government decided to revisit the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for hydel projects, and ensure 100 per cent safety of tourists and locals against such emergencies.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who held a meeting with top officials of the power department and HPSEB – both under fire after death of 24 students of Hyderabad engineering institute – directed the officials to strictly enforce safety norms before releasing water. Announcement should be made through vehicles down the stream, besides use of hooters, Singh said.
On Monday, the Himachal Pradesh High Court had also sought report from the government whether proper procedure was followed before release of water from Larji project barrage that caused tragedy.
“Lesson should be learnt from the Larji dam mishap and every precaution should be taken in future by all concerned departments,” he said ordering fencing of minimum two-three kilometers stretch on all dams besides other sensitive and dangerous zones. Proper sign boards should also be installed, he said.
The government had also set-up a high-level inquiry into the tragedy and Divisional Commissioner of Mandi Onkar Sharma has been asked to give report within 15 days. Eyewitnesses have admitted that Larji project management had been releasing water quite frequently without prior warning and Hyderabad engineering students became unfortunate victims of their lapse.
Earlier in the day, Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, accompanied by Himachal Transport and Technical Education Minister GS Bali, visited the site of the tragedy and barrage of the Larji project.
The HPSEB officials were asked to test siren to assess its functioning as the survivors claimed that they never heard the siren or warning alert before the water discharge.
Bali announced that he had had directed the department to install 200 sign boards on the National Highway to warn the tourists against venturing into the river water.
Bali also supervised the search operation and assured the families that efforts will be further stepped up to trace all the bodies.
Anil Sharma, Minister for Rural Development and Pancahayat Raj, who hails from Mandi, spoke to Telangana Home Minister N Narsimha Reddy to assure that action will be taken against erring Larji project officials after inquiry, which has been ordered by the Chief Minister.
Former Apple executive and Dwarka MLA Adarsh Shastri has also been included in the spokespersons’ list.