THE BHAKRA Beas Management Board (BBMB) on Wednesday said it had to release large quantities of water from the Bhakra dam due to “unprecedented” high levels of flow into the reservoir from catchment areas owing to heavy rain — the highest in the last 40 years. This they said had also resulted in one of the highest levels of deflection in the structure of the dam itself.
Addressing a press conference flanked by senior officials of the board, BBMB Chairman D K Sharma said heavy rain on the intervening night of August 17 and 18 in catchment areas had generated 3.11 lakh cusecs of water for release into the Bhakra dam, and this water inflow was more than that of the 1988 floods in Punjab, which was the worst the state has seen till date.
Calling it a “historical flood”, Sharma said that though inflow into the Bhakra dam has reduced now, it was still in the range of 50,000-60,000 cusecs and that 40,000-41,000 cusecs water was still being released from the dam. Following heavy rain in the past few days and release of excess water from Bhakra dam, the Sutlej river and its tributaries have inundated villages in several parts of Punjab, causing damage to crops and homes.
“A water level of 1681.33 ft resulted in high deflection in the Bhakra dam. Keeping in view the safety of the dam, BBMB had to resort to controlled water release of 19,000 cusecs on August 16, which increased to about 41,000 cusecs on August 19,” Sharma said. He, however, added that there was no danger to the structure of the dam.
The chairman said that in view of the high inflow into the dam in May and June, BBMB had released water and brought the level of the water down by around 20 feet — from 1624.18 feet to 1604 feet by June 25 — before the onset of monsoon.
He added that on August 20, a special meeting of the BBMB technical committee was held to discuss reservoir level. “All members of partner states were of the view that present reservoir water level should be brought down by at least another 5 feet to around 1675 feet to handle any possibility of future flood along with control of deflection of the dam as more than one month of the current monsoon season is left,” he said.
International tender floated to study dam strength
The chairman said that an international tender had been floated to study the strength of the Bhakra dam and claimed that its present strength was 30 per cent more than what had been when it came up in 1964. He said the review is also being carried out in view of climate change and a dynamic and seismic analysis of the dam will be done. On the question of silt deposits, DK Sharma said 24 per cent silt has been deposited in the dam since 1964. “We have asked IIT Roorkee to do a study on the utilisation of silt and tell us about its industrial use. This is an ongoing study and samples from 63 locations have been taken,” he said.
Sharma also said that IIT Ropar had been asked to do a study on the source of silt in catchment areas of the Sutlej so that the Himachal Pradesh government could be apprised for corrective measures.
More than 2 lakh cusecs water flowed into Pakistan
Due to release of water from the Bhakra dam, more than 2 lakh cusecs water has entered the Sutlej and is moving towards Pakistan, said the BBMB chairman. He said this was unavoidable as it was the normal course of the river.
“Of the 2,40,000 cusecs released only, about 14,000 cusecs has caused floods in Punjab and the rest has flown as per its normal course,” he said.