New Delhi: The expert panel of the union environment ministry has recommended environment clearance to the ‘additional spillway’ of the Hirakud dam near Sambalpur in Odisha to safeguard thickly populated areas near the dam.
The decision was taken at the 30 January meeting of the environment ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects.
As per the minutes, the committee in its meeting noted that there “are a significant number of structures located along the Mahanadi River that could be affected due to a design flood arising out the failure of the dam."
“Cities and towns like Sambalpur, Hirakud and Burla can suffer a likely disaster in the event of breach of the dam. Apart from that, the water resulting from a breach can travel down the Mahanadi river, affecting the districts of Cuttack, Jagatsingpur, Khurda, Kendrapara and many others," observed the minutes which were reviewed by Mint.
The construction of the “spill channel" will involve diversion of 9.44 hectare of forest area of Lamedungri forest range and at least “3,595 numbers of local species of trees are likely to be felled during construction".
However, the EAC was informed that the “loss of trees will be compensated by planting 10 times of the felled trees—35,950 plants through green belt plantation, avenue plantation, block plantation".
The expert panel was also informed that the project will have numerous benefits. For instance, EAC was told that the “construction of additional spillway on the left dyke of Hirakud dam will considerably relieve the pressure of reservoir operation" and after completion of the construction activities the “approach roads will be modernized with avenue plantation and lighting facilities".
EAC was also told that the “new look will attract tourism prospect. The expanded activities will increase the source of income for the resettled families".
“After deliberations and considering all the facts of the project as presented by the project proponent and since the project does not propose any change in the reservoir or the downstream river, the EAC recommended for grant of environmental clearance to the proposal…" said the minutes.
Hirakud dam built across the River Mahanadi near Sambalpur in Odisha is one of the earliest major multi-purpose river valley projects of India, which was commissioned in 1957. The reservoir is one of the most important water infrastructures of Odisha, contributing water to the powerhouse having installed capacity of 307.5 MW, irrigating 264,478 hectare of culturable command area and providing flood protection to 9,500 square km of Mahanadi Delta, which is thickly populated.