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The Hindu on : State concerned over cracks in Koyna dam

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Sunday, October 08, 2000

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State concerned over cracks in Koyna dam

By S. Rajendran

BANGALORE, OCT. 7. The Karnataka Government, based on credible information, is perturbed over the serious cracks in the Koyna dam across the Krishna in Satara district of Maharashtra and has decided to move the Union Government to immediately ensure that action was taken to prevent a national calamity.

Reports have it that the Koyna region, which was the epicentre of an earthquake in December 1967 (leading to a dam burst and a consequent loss to life and property), has been facing repeated tremors. A recent tremor is stated to have caused cracks in the dam beyond the prescribed limits, and about a fortnight ago, there was a sudden discharge of a large quantum of water downstream of the Krishna.

The argument of the Karnataka Government is that although attending to the cracks in the dam is a State problem, it was imperative for the Union Government, particularly the Central Water Commission, to intervene since any damage in that dam could seriously affect life and property in the lower riparian States of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Compared to Maharashtra, the Krishna flows through the entire breadth of the two lower States.

The State Government, after receiving certain reports, has carried out extensive consultations with civil engineering, and irrigation experts on the steps to be taken in the event of any serious problem on account of seepages in the Koyna dam.

The Koyna dam has a water hold of around 100 tmcft. One of the large dams in the country, the water stored in it is largely used for power generation apart from irrigation.

The Minister for Major and Medium Irrigation, Mr. H. K. Patil, who has chaired the meetings with experts in the field, told The Hindu here that the State Government would like to convey its anxiety to the Central Water Commission. Downstream of the Koyna were major irrigation projects such as the Alamatti (storage of around 120 tmcft.), the Narayanpur dam (30 tmcft.), the Nagarjuna Sagar (around 250 tmcft.), and the Srisailam Project (around 300 tmcft.). All these dams would be in danger if the Koyna dam burst, he added.

In recent years, Mr. Patil said the Karnataka Government had spent around Rs. 7,000 crores on the Upper Krishna Projects alone. There were also several projects underway, including the Hippargi Barrage, which was the first dam across the Krishna in the State, and the Jurala project further downstream in Andhra Pradesh. ``Sharing of waters of inter-State rivers and a dispute therein is one thing but avoidance of a national calamity is another. The States concerned should put their heads together and avert such a disaster,'' he said.

Mr. B. C. Angadi and Capt. S. Raja Rao, former Irrigation Secretaries to the Government, who have been consulted on the Koyna seepage issue said that attending to the major cracks in the Koyna dam could be one thing, but there was also a need for a discussion on whether there could be a dam in an earthquake zone. Originally, the Deccan Plateau was considered an ``earthquake trap'' (free from quakes) but the Koyna earthquake in 1967 and the recent one at Latur had surprised seismologists and geologists. ``Compared to the repairs undertaken to the Koyna dam in the late Sixties and early Seventies, we do have very advanced technology in attending to such cracks,'' they said.

The two top irrigation engineers have suggested that there should be an immediate survey of the Koyna dam for its structural stability, besides a dam burst analysis, including the steps to be taken in the event of a dam burst. ``It may be a sensitive matter, but expertise has to be pooled in and utilised in national interest. The lower riparian States and the Central Water Commission should be involved in avoiding what could possibly turn out to be a calamity of the worst kind.''

Incidentally, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh had opposed the Alamatti and the Narayanapur dams on the ground that the design was not earthquake proof.

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