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Quiet flows the Sutlej; no need to worry, say experts
Tribune Reporters

The vast vacant expanse of the Bhakra reservoir can hold the entire water from the artificial lake in Tibet without creating ripples downstream. The reservoir is only one-third full of its capacity.
The vast vacant expanse of the Bhakra reservoir can hold the entire water from the artificial lake in Tibet without creating ripples downstream. The reservoir is only one-third full of its capacity. — Tribune photo by Manoj Mahajan

Chandigarh/Rampur/Bhakra, August 13
“The situation along the Sutlej is quiet, cool and calm. There is nothing to worry”, said Natpha Jhakri Hydel Project Director, Civil, Mr H.K. Sharma, after a review meeting at Rampur in Himachal today to take stock of the threat perception in the wake of the reported spillover or controlled blast at the blockade site on the Perchu river in Tibet.

The Chairman, Sutlej Jal Viduyat Nigam, which manages the Natpha Jhakri, Mr Y.N. Apparao, who flew from Delhi to preside over the meeting, endorsed this opinion.

Once the water escapes from the blockade, it will slow down after travelling a certain distance and get absorbed in the Bhakra reservoir, thus posing no danger or threat downstream. Since the blockade on the Parchu is 325 km away from Bhakra, the water will slow down to what is termed as normal speed.

At present the Bhakra Dam has adequate capacity of 118 feet and is spread over 140 sq km. The dam still has the capacity to hold 6000 million cubic metres more water. The size of the artificial lake in Tibet is estimated to be no bigger than 55 to 60 million cubic metres.

Sources in the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) said that whenever, the water bursts through the blockade, it was likely to gush down at a speed of over 40 km per hour and was expected to reach the Nathpa Jhakri located 125 km downstream in three hours. Water travelling through the hills would take about 10 to 11 hours to reach Bhakra at that speed.

Engineers said the speed could vary on several factors. If the blockade gives away in one go, the lake would drain out in four to five hours. In case it creates a way for itself at the bottom or nearer to the riverbed, the outflow will be slower. The speed will also depend on the height. The Perchu river is between 9,000 feet and 10,000 feet above sea level while the Bhakra is about 8,000 feet lower than the Perchu.

Interestingly, the highest recorded velocity of the Sutlej has been near Rampur Bushahr at 6 metres per second during August, 2000 flooding. Engineers estimate if the speed of the water exceeds 6 metres per second speed, it could be catastrophic, resulting in a huge damage.

The Perchu has always remained an unnoticed tributary of the Sutlej. It first joins the river Spiti at Samdoh along the Indo-Tibetan border which then goes on to merge into the Sutlej.

The meeting in Rampur today was attended by senior officials of the Himachal Pradesh Government, including Deputy Commissioner, Shimla, Mr Sushil Negi, and Director, Personnel, Human Resource Development, Mr Tarun Kapur. The hydro-electric project has been shut down since August 3 as a precaution. This meant a revenue loss of at least Rs 8 crore per day, while tunnels have been sealed after the dam was de-watered to absorb the expected volume of water.

As of today there is no change in the water level of the Sutlej at Rampur, which can be co-related to the discharge from the lake. The situation was same as recorded form the satellite pictures taken on August 9. However, there persisted an apprehension among the people living at the edge of the river as to what tomorrow would bring. Army choppers had carried out an aerial reccee on Thursday. — P.P.S. Gill and Ajay Banerjee in Chandigarh, Pratibha Chauhan in Rampur and Kiran Deep from Bhakra Dam.
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