Water storage down to 10%, Bhakra can meet only 30% demand for irrigation

Power generation down by 20%

Water storage down to 10%, Bhakra can meet only 30% demand for irrigation

For representation only. File photo

Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, May 14

The available storage in the reservoir at Bhakra Dam, which is crucial for supply of water for drinking and irrigation in the region, as well as for power generation, has plummeted to just 10 per cent of its total capacity.

This can meet only 25-30 per cent of the regular demand for water for irrigation till the reservoir starts filling up, and power generation has reduced by about 20 per cent, sources in the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) said. Against a target of 927 million units (MU) of electricity till May 14 during the current fiscal, BBMB has generated748 MU.

Deficient snow and rainfall during the preceding winters have been cited as the reason for low water storage. Further, unseasonal rain and snow in many parts of the Himalayas during May kept temperatures low, thereby reducing snow melt. Bhakra Dam, which lies on the Sutlej, is primarily snow-fed while the other two major dams in the region, Pong on the Beas and Thein on the Ravi are primarily rain-fed.   

The period from October 1 till May 20 is the depletion phase for Bhakra’s reservoir after having filled up from snow melt and rains during the summers and monsoons. The outflow from the reservoir is more than the inflow from autumn to spring. Last year, during the filling period that officially lasts from May 21 to September 30, the reservoir had filled up to 85 per cent of its capacity.

According to the Central Water Commission (CWC), the storage available at Bhakra on May 13 was 0.649 billion cubic meters (BCM) against the total capacity of 6.229 BCM. The storage was 28 percent at this time of the year in 2020. CWC data also shows that the current storage at Pong Dam is 15 percent as compared to 54 percent on this day last year, while at Thein Dam it is 31 percent as compared to 52 percent for the corresponding period. 

“The inflow into the reservoirs is currently categorized as dry pattern, which is the bare minimum,” a senior BBMB official said. “About two-thirds of Bhakra’s catchment area along the course of the Sutlej lies in China, which received scanty snow,” he added. Deficient snow and unseasonal rains are due to climatic changes.

The inflow at Bhakra in 2020-21 was 15,661 cusecs and compared to 19,548 cusecs in 2019-20, while the outflow was 17,459 cusecs in 2020-21 as compared to 35,000 cusecs in 2019-20. At Pong, the inflow was 3,565 cusecs in 2020-2021 and 5,266 in 2020-19, while the outflow was 4,409 cusecs in 2020-21 and 15,005 in 2020-19.

“We have cautioned the state governments concerned about the water situation and advised them that they should draw water accordingly. While providing water for drinking would not be affected, releasing of water for irrigation is being regulated strictly,” the official said. “Moreover, unseasonal rains also have a deviating effect on traditional agricultural practices which in turn impacts the demand for water,” he added. Though low, the water level is not expected to fall below the “dead storage level”, the threshold under which power generation is not possible. 

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