Floodgates of bitter memorieshttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/floodgates-of-bitter-memories/

Floodgates of bitter memories

There has been no major repair work at the Panshet dam after its reconstruction in 1962-’65. Irrigation officials say the dam is strong enough and there will be no repeat of the 1961 burst,which saw the entire city — especially the peth areas — flooded.

Reconstructed dam sound,no cause for worry: irrigation officials

There has been no major repair work at the Panshet dam after its reconstruction in 1962-’65. Irrigation officials say the dam is strong enough and there will be no repeat of the 1961 burst,which saw the entire city — especially the peth areas — flooded.

The dam,with a storage capacity of 310 million cubic metres (10.9 TMC) and generating power up to 8 MW,has a catchment area of 120.6 sq km. “Ever since the burst,the department has been on guard and checks are introduced in all four dams. There has been no major repair work at the dam in the past 50 years as the construction has been very sound,’’ said Avinash Surve,superintending engineer of Pune irrigation circle.

Though the department does not have much records of the flood,a CD prepared by the Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS) has many details,including photographs taken with a camera placed downstream in Khadakwasla. The Khadakwasla dam had to be blown up to ease the water pressure.

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According to the irrigation department,the Panshet dam was constructed to ease the pressure on Khadakwasla dam following a rise in population of Pune city. The Khadakwasla dam,constructed in 1881,on the Mutha river — a confluence of the Ambi and Mose rivers — had only 2 TMC capacity and could supply only 30 lakh litres water to the city. Over the years,the population crossed 10,000 and the water demand went up to 610 lakh litres.

It was in 1907 that it was decided to construct the Panshet dam to tap the upstream Ambi river. The 7.54-TMC dam was planned to be constructed between 1957-’61. The dam was tested for storage capacity in April,1961. However,heavy rains from June 20 to July 10 — 1,778 mm rainfall — put pressure on the dam walls and water was found to be overflowing on July 10. A leak was detected later and a 30-ft area near the slipway gave away. Sandbags were put up and later even the Army was roped in for fixing the leaks.

However,on July 12 at 8 am,the 1,200-ft wall of the dam gave away and the Khadakwasla dam also had to be blown up after 10 am when water was found overflowing.

The district administration put the total amount spent for rehabilitation at Rs 1,748 lakh. Areas like Narayan Peth,Shaniwar Peth,Kasba Peth,Dattawadi,Bhamburda,Erandwana,Deccan Gymkhana and Abasaheb Garware Vidyalaya Auditorium were under water. There is a mark in the auditorium even now showing how much water had entered the auditorium. The Pune Municipal Corporation building,Shivajinagar roads,Apte Road,Bhandarkar Institute and Fergusson College were all flooded. The Laxmibai statue at Balgandharva chowk was submerged in water. There was about 22.5 ft water at Omkareshwar,23.5 ft at Congress Bhavan,25.5 ft water at Sambhaji Bridge and Kelkar roads and people had to be evacuated. By 7 pm,the Mula river too was flooded and water entered Khadki areas as well. Nagzari and Ambil Odhas too were flooded.

The district administration did manage to set up a flood control cell and there was a lot of clean-up activities post the flood and repair works of the electricity and phone lines. It also had to make arrangements for water supply from Mulshi dam as the entire water had flown into the city. Nearly 65,000 people had to be rehabilitated; Lokmanya Nagar and Lakshmi Nagar now house the next generation of the rehabilitated people.

From automatic floating type spillways to radial spillways,an improvement of the dams has seen effective storage and less pressure on the dam walls. The dam still has remains of the old construction. However,the rehabilitated are still fighting for the benefits promised by the administration and they allege that they are yet to receive adequate compensation.