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Experts recommend reforestation campaigns to combat siltation at Bhakra Dam, one of the first infrastructure projects pursued by India after independence.

Bhakra Dam supplies water and electricity to states throughout northern India.

When it opened in 1963, Bhakra Dam was called a “new temple of resurgent India” by Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister. Today the dam is threatened as its reservoir rapidly fills with silt.

Much to the worry of hydrologists monitoring the situation, the reservoir—Gobind Sagar Lake—has a rapidly growing sediment delta that, once it reaches the dam, will adversely affect power generation and water deliveries.

Bhakra Dam stands 226 meters tall and stretches 518 meters long, making it one of the largest dams in India. Electricity generated by the dam supports the states of Himachal Pradesh (where the dam is located), Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan, and the union territories of Chandigarh and Delhi. The reservoir supplies these areas with water for drinking, hygiene, industry, and irrigation. Loss of reservoir capacity as a result of sedimentation could thus have severe consequences for the region’s water management system and power grid.

According to investigations led by D. K. Sharma, former chairman of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB, the power company responsible for the dam), nearly a quarter of Gobind Sagar Lake has filled with silt. The sedimentation flows from the lake’s catchment areas, which are spread over 36,000 square kilometers in the Himalayas.

“The storage of the reservoir is 9.27 billion cubic meters, out of which 2.13 billion cubic meters are filled with silt, which is an alarming situation,” explained Sharma. He said the studies related to silt pileup are carried out every 2 years.

To combat siltation, Sharma suggested extensive reforestation in the reservoir’s catchment area. “The partner states of BBMB—Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh—need to plan forestation to bind the loose soil,” he said.

“If we can reduce silt inflows by 10%, the dam’s life can be extended by 15–20 years,” he added.


About the author:
American Geophysical Union

American Geophysical Union The American Geophysical Union (AGU) is a nonprofit organization of Earth, atmospheric, ocean, hydrologic, space, and planetary scientists and enthusiasts. AGU\'s activities are focused on the organization and dissemination of scientific information in the interdisciplinary and international fields within the Earth and space sciences. The geophysical sciences headquartered at Washington DC.

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