Since Independence, India has been developing at various fronts but technology has definitely escalated the growth of India with a much greater pace. One of the results of this very technological development is large number of dams built all across the country. Till independence, in 1947, there existed less than 300 large dams in India. However by 2000 the number grew to over 4000. More than half of them were built between 1971 and 1989. As a result India ranks third in the world in building dams, after US and China.
While some of these dams were built with a motive of water supply, flood control, and hydroelectric power generation, the primary purpose of most of the Indian dams remains irrigation. As a matter of fact, the main form of investment in irrigation has been large dam construction undertaken by the Indian government. However, starting in the 1980s, huge public investment in large dams in India has continuously been a subject of a never-ending controversy.
Even though the list of main multi-purpose projects constituting damns in India is very long yet few Dams that must be quoted are- Tehri dam, Bhakra Nangal Dam, Hirakund dam and Nagarjuna Sagar Dam.
The Tehri Dam which is located on the Bhagirathi River of Uttarakhand, is the largest Dam in Asia with a height of 261 meters and eighth tallest in the world. It is a primary dam of the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Ltd. and Tehri hydroelectric complex. This multi-purpose dam constitutes a reservoir to cater the need of irrigation, municipal water supply and generation of 1,000 MW of hydroelectricity.
Bhakra Nangal Dam, stretched over Sutlej River is situated in Himachal Pradesh. It is the second highest Dam in Asia with a height of 225.55 meters. Its reservoir is named as “Gobind Sagar” stores up-to 9340 cu m of water. Spread over an area of 168.35 km sq, the reservoir is 96km long. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru described the dam as, “New temple of resurgent India”. The main motive of building the dam was to provide irrigation to two states of India- Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.
Another famous Dam of India, namely Hirakud Dam is built over the Mahanadi River in the Orissa state. It is world’s longest earthen dam, about 26 km built in 1957. The reservoir itself is 55 km long. It generates power of 307.5 MW. The distinct fact about the Hirakud Dam is that it is the first multipurpose river valley project started after independence. The Dam was built with the major goal of tackling the problem of flood in Mahanadi delta. The dam’s inaugural function itself was a historical event as it was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on 13 Jan, 1957.
Continuing the series of most famous and powerful Dams in India next comes, the Nagarjun Sagar Dam. It is the world’s largest masonry dam buit over Krishna River. As the name suggests the dam lies in the Nagarjuna Sagar, Nalgonda District of Andhra Pradesh. The 490 ft. tall and 1.6 km long dam was built between 1955 and 1967. The dam reservoir named as Nagarjuna Sagar reservoir has a capacity of up to 11,472 million cu. m. It is one the first large infrastructure invested to cater the irrigation needs that led to Green Revolution in India. The power generation capacity of the dam is 815.6 MW.
There is no doubt that the construction of dams involves huge capital. Primarily all most all the dams are built with prime motives of flood control, irrigation and electricity generation. Since their existence dams have proved to be very helpful in terms of flood control. The motive of irrigation was met to its best, resulting in Green Revolution in India. The electricity produced not only fulfills the demand of people in India but is also in the interest of mankind as hydro electricity is completely a renewable source of energy.
However, there lies another side of Dams too which can’t be ignored. Firstly, the large-scale of standing water raises questions of several health hazards, such as malaria, river blindness, filarial etc. Secondly, a huge amount of public money is spent over the construction of these dams. Where on one side there are so many other needs of the society that are to be catered, on the other side spending crores on Dam construction, which is considered as not very efficient and smart practice doesn’t hold well.
A major issue that arises at the construction of dams is resettlement of people living in nearby areas. Most of them are poor and don’t have many options. In such case they are bound to leave their inherited place of lands, face problems. Even then there are still many people living in the nearby areas, whose lives remain at stake due to constant fear of flood.
Despite so many issues, the immense advantages of Dams catch the attention. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru rightly said in context of villagers who were to be displaced the Hirakud Dam, that- “If you are to suffer, you should suffer in the interest of the country”.
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