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Sikkim disaster: 1,200 MW project dam washed away

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Sikkim disaster: 1,200 MW project dam washed away​

ByPramod Giri, Siliguri
Oct 05, 2023 07:16 AM IST

Teesta Urja, the second biggest run-of-the-river hydro power project in India, suffered massive damage due to flood caused by the breach in Lhonak lake in north-west Sikkim on the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday.​

Teesta Urja, the second biggest run-of-the-river hydro power project in India, suffered massive damage due to flood caused by the breach in Lhonak lake in north-west Sikkim on the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Teesta river level increased on Wednesday. (ANI)
The Teesta river level increased on Wednesday. (ANI)

The 1,200 MW power project on Teesta river, one of the most dammed rivers in the country, is located between Chungthang and Mangan in Mangan district in North Sikkim and is the biggest of nine working hydro projects on the river in Sikkim. Work on 15 dams is going on and another 28 are proposed over the river to tap its hydel capacity of about 4,200 MW.

Sunil Saraogi, the executive chairman of Sikkim Urja Limited (formerly Teesta Urja Limited) said such was the force of the water than the dam at Chungthang was washed away in just ten minutes.

“At 11.58 pm on Tuesday we got information from ITBP (Indian Tiber Border Police) about the flash flood. Immediately our team rushed to open the gates. Before they could open the gates, the flood hit them . There were 12 to 13 people in the team and they somehow saved themselves by running to the other side of the dam. They were evacuated by ITBP by 2 pm on Wednesday,” he said.


He added that the 200-meter-long bridge connecting the power house to the dam was also washed away. “The entire power house is submerged under water and it is too early to assess the damage,” he said, adding that the cost of rebuilding the project would run into thousands of crores of rupees.

Visuals from the project site show large portions of the dam’s wall missing .
According to the Sikkim disaster management authority, the collapse of the Chungthang dam resulted in sudden surge of 15-20 feet in water level in downstream areas.

The power project was commissioned in February 2017 and it was only in 2022 that it started making profit, generating more power than the capacity, because of heavy flow of water. “We were running at 120% of capacity utilization,” said Saraogi. Sikkim government had 60.08% share in the project.

Local activists have for long warned of the adverse environmental implications of the run-of-the-river projects on the 414 km long Teesta river that originates from Punhunri Mountain in north Sikkim.

Run of the river projects are those which provides for a facility that channels flow of water from the river through a canal or penstock to spin a turbine to generate electricity. Run of the river projects does not support large irrigation facilities.

 
“At 11.58 pm on Tuesday we got information from ITBP (Indian Tiber Border Police) about the flash flood. Immediately our team rushed to open the gates. Before they could open the gates, the flood hit them . There were 12 to 13 people in the team and they somehow saved themselves by running to the other side of the dam. They were evacuated by ITBP by 2 pm on Wednesday,” he said.
Living in a first world country, I have seen so many superior organizational setups here that it surprised me to read that there was no one (plural) on duty to look after the gates and the local Police had to warn about the coming calamity.

By Jove, India is a big country but it remains an underdeveloped one where strict rules have not been formulated by the govt bodies and no one is in charge of an important Dam/ Power project a 24/ 7 job.

It is the same with the other two neighbors of India. I believe, without setting up proper systems for everything these "three idiots" will never rise economically. A system is similar to setting up rules for the cricket game.

Our three countries lack rules and also lack personal or organizational discipline. Any rule is violated at ease.
 
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The early warning system was wip


"The first part of the system, a camera to monitor Lhonak Lake's level and weather instruments, was installed last month, officials involved in the project told Reuters.

If fully operational, the warning system could have given people more time to evacuate, scientists said.

Details of the Lhonak Lake warning system have not previously been reported.

"It's quite absurd, really," said geoscientist Simon Allen of the University of Zurich who is involved with the project. "The fact it happened just two weeks after our team was there was completely bad luck".

He said they planned to add a tripwire sensor that would trigger if the lake was about to burst. That would typically be connected to an alert system that would warn residents to immediately evacuate.

"The Indian government was not prepared to do that this year, so it was being done as a two-step process," he said.

Authorities and residents would have had a warning time of 90 minutes, according to simulations carried out by scientists during planning for an early warning system at Lhonak Lake. It would also have allowed a hydropower station to open gates earlier."



 
There is a possibility of corruption and poor quality construction and also laxity n placing systems to prevent such disasters.

Very sad for loos of life and property. Time to fix some responsibility and also mechanism to prevent recurrence in the future.
 
When rushing water went over the top of the concrete dam structure, the weight of the structure was reduced by the buoyancy of the water.

Instead of the actual 2.4 t/m3, its specific weight under water reduced to only 1.4 t/m3 (2.4t/m3 - 1.0t/m3). Water buoyancy causes the loss of 1 t/m3.

This is how the rushing water dislocated the entire dam structure. Had thegates been opened by the operators, there was little possibility of being floated away. But, operators were not there.

India remains a 3rd world country without a system. Very unfortunate.
 
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The Indian government was not prepared to do that this year, so it was being done as a two-step process," he said.
Our cheapness and unnecessary desire to be frugal even in the face of extreme risks costed us dearly.
Billions lost because of cost cutting by the government.
Our government has money to spend on unnecessary quotas and luxuries for MPs and MLAs but not for necessary security features on dams
 
Life is precious. So many lives lost have made me sad. These hydroelectric dams in Sikkim are the root cause for water scarcity within Bangladesh's Teesta river. I mourn the deaths but rejoice at the destruction of the dam.
 
Living in a first world country, I have seen so many superior organizational setups here that it surprised me to read that there was no one (plural) on duty to look after the gates and the local Police had to warn about the coming calamity.

By Jove, India is a big country but it remains an underdeveloped one where strict rules have not been formulated by the govt bodies and no one is in charge of an important Dam/ Power project a 24/ 7 job.

It is the same with the other two neighbors of India. I believe, without setting up proper systems for everything these "three idiots" will never rise economically. A system is similar to setting up rules for the cricket game.

Our three countries lack rules and also lack personal or organizational discipline. Any rule is violated at ease.

While India is known for apathy and incompetence this maybe a case where not much can be done.
 
While India is known for apathy and incompetence this maybe a case where not much can be done.
Brother, you are completely wrong. The dam could have been saved had some operators opened the sluice gates at the sides. These are opened by push buttons by Operators when needed.

But no operators were there to do so. High water went over and engulfed the concrete structure that caused it to (semi) float.

Do you remember your body becomes lighter and float in water, but not in the air?

The structure loses its weight because of buoyancy.
A 2.4 t/m3 concrete becomes 1.4 t/m3 only. The flowing water then easily slid away this lighter structure.

So, the failure was completely due to the lack of proper operational management system. A failure in a 3rd world country.
 
Brother, you are completely wrong. The dam could have been saved had some operators opened the sluice gates at the sides. These are opened by push buttons by Operators when needed.

But no operators were there to do so. High water went over and engulfed the concrete structure that caused it to (semi) float.

Do you remember your body becomes lighter and float in water, but not in the air?

The structure loses its weight because of buoyancy.
A 2.4 t/m3 concrete becomes 1.4 t/m3 only. The flowing water then easily slid away this lighter structure.

So, the failure was completely due to the lack of proper operational management system. A failure in a 3rd world country.
I would suspect there were no operators on duty
 

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