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Top Ten Largest Dams in India

Introduction

Dams are structures that are built across rivers to control the flow of water. They can be used for a variety of purposes, including irrigation, hydroelectricity generation, and flood control. India has a large number of dams, and they play an important role in the country’s economy and society.

Here are the top ten largest dams in India, in terms of volume:

Tehri Dam (Uttarakhand) – This is the highest dam in India with a height of 260.5 meters. It is a multi-purpose dam that generates hydroelectricity, provides irrigation, and controls floods.

Tehri dam

 

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Tehri Dam stands as a significant engineering marvel situated on the Bhagirathi River in New Tehri, within the Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, India. This dam is the tallest of its kind in India and ranks as the 12th tallest globally. Its primary purposes include storing water for irrigation, supplying water to municipalities, and generating a substantial 1,000 megawatts (1,300,000 horsepower) of hydroelectric power.

The construction of this dam spanned a lengthy period of 30 years, commencing in 1978 and concluding in 2006. However, the project has been marred by controversy from its inception. The principal concerns revolve around the environmental impact, including the displacement of thousands of people and the flooding of a vast forested area. Furthermore, questions have arisen regarding the dam’s stability in the face of seismic activity, given its location in a region prone to earthquakes.

Despite the controversies, Tehri Dam remains a crucial endeavor for India. It plays a pivotal role in providing much-needed hydroelectric power, aids in flood control, and enhances irrigation capabilities in the region. Additionally, the dam has become a significant tourist attraction, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

Here are some key statistics about Tehri Dam:

  • Height: 260.5 meters (855 feet)
  • Length: 575 meters (1,886 feet)
  • Crest width: 20 meters (66 feet)
  • Base width: 1,128 meters (3,701 feet)
  • Reservoir capacity: 3.54 cubic kilometers (2,870,000 acre-feet)
  • Installed hydrocapacity: 1,000 MW
  • Cost: US$2.5 billion

In summary, Tehri Dam, though a complex and contentious project, holds paramount importance for India by providing hydroelectric power, aiding flood control, enhancing irrigation, and serving as a notable tourist attraction.

Bhakra Dam (Himachal Pradesh) – This is the largest dam in India in terms of volume. It is a gravity dam that generates hydroelectricity, provides irrigation, and controls floods.

 

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Bhakra Dam is a formidable concrete gravity dam situated on the Satluj River, near Bhakra Village in Bilaspur district, Himachal Pradesh, in the northern part of India. This engineering marvel creates the expansive Gobind Sagar reservoir.

Standing as India’s second tallest dam, following Tehri Dam, Bhakra Dam reaches a towering height of 226 meters (740 feet) and spans an impressive 518 meters (1,699 feet) in length. The reservoir it forms boasts an immense capacity of 9.34 billion cubic meters (equivalent to 327 billion cubic feet).

Bhakra Dam came into existence as part of the comprehensive Bhakra Nangal Project, a multifaceted initiative encompassing not only the dam but also a hydroelectric power plant and an extensive irrigation system. The dam’s construction was successfully concluded in 1963. Since then, it has been a crucial contributor to the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan, supplying water for irrigation, generating hydroelectric power, and offering flood control measures.

Beyond its functional importance, Bhakra Dam has evolved into a sought-after tourist destination, offering breathtaking vistas of the surrounding mountains. Moreover, it serves as a significant economic driver for the local community.

Here are key details about Bhakra Dam:

  • Height: 226 meters (740 feet)
  • Length: 518 meters (1,699 feet)
  • Crest width: 9.1 meters (30 feet)
  • Base width: 325 meters (1,066 feet)
  • Reservoir capacity: 9.34 billion cubic meters (327 billion cubic feet)
  • Installed hydrocapacity: 5,700 MW
  • Cost: ₹245.28 crore (equivalent to ₹200 billion or US$2.5 billion in 2023)

In summary, Bhakra Dam stands as a critical piece of infrastructure for India, playing a pivotal role in the nation’s development by providing water for irrigation, generating hydroelectric power, facilitating flood control, and bolstering the local economy.

Hirakud Dam (Odisha) – This is the longest dam in India with a length of 25.79 kilometers. It is a multi-purpose dam that generates hydroelectricity, provides irrigation, and controls floods.

Hirakund dam

 

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Hirakud Dam, a monumental engineering feat nestled in the heart of the Indian state of Odisha, stands as a testament to human ingenuity and its harmonious coexistence with nature. This colossal structure, completed in 1957, ranks among the longest dams in the world, stretching approximately 25.8 kilometers across the mighty Mahanadi River. Its primary purpose is multifaceted, serving as a reservoir for water storage, hydroelectric power generation, and flood control.

The dam’s creation was driven by the need to mitigate the frequent and devastating floods that had ravaged the region for centuries. Today, Hirakud Dam, named after the nearby town of Hirakud, plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the lower reaches of the Mahanadi basin from the ravages of floodwaters during the monsoon season. It regulates the river’s flow, releasing excess water downstream in a controlled manner to prevent catastrophic inundation.

Indira Sagar Dam (Madhya Pradesh) – This is a concrete gravity dam that generates hydroelectricity and provides irrigation.

indira sagar dam

 

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Indira Sagar Dam, situated in the Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh, India, is a versatile reservoir built along the Narmada River. Renowned as India’s largest dam in terms of stored water volume, its construction spanned from 1992 to 2003, and it commemoratively bears the name of Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India.

The colossal dam stands at an impressive height of 138 meters (453 feet) and spans a substantial length of 1,210 meters (3,970 feet). Its reservoir boasts a staggering capacity of 12.22 billion cubic meters (327 billion cubic feet), making it the most capacious reservoir in the country.

Functioning as a multifaceted project, the Indira Sagar Dam serves the crucial roles of irrigation, hydroelectric power generation, and flood control. Its extensive irrigation network covers over 2.65 lakh hectares (6.55 million acres) of land in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, ensuring agricultural prosperity. Moreover, the dam generates an impressive 1,000 megawatts (1,300,000 hp) of hydroelectric power, a vital energy source for industries and households in the region. Simultaneously, it plays a pivotal role in mitigating the risk of floods within the Narmada River basin.

Here are some additional key facts about the Indira Sagar Dam:

  • Cost: ₹10,000 crore (equivalent to ₹200 billion or US$2.5 billion in 2023)
  • Installed hydroelectric capacity: 1,000 MW
  • Annual irrigation: 2.65 Lac. Ha on a Culturable Command Area (CCA) of 1.23 Lac. Ha
  • Total catchment area at the dam site: 61,642 km2

Nagarjuna Sagar Dam (Andhra Pradesh) – This is a masonry dam that generates hydroelectricity and provides irrigation.

Nagarjuna sagar dam

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Nagarjuna Sagar Dam, an impressive masonry structure spanning the Krishna River, stands proudly at Nagarjuna Sagar, marking the boundary between the Palnadu district in Andhra Pradesh and the Nalgonda district in Telangana. This substantial dam plays a pivotal role in supplying irrigation water to a wide swath of districts, including Palnadu, Guntur, Nalgonda, Prakasam, Khammam, Krishna, and portions of West Godavari. Moreover, it serves as a critical source of electricity for the national grid. The construction of this monumental dam took place over the years 1955 to 1967, and it now ranks as India’s second tallest dam, following only the Tehri Dam. Impressively, it extends 124 meters (407 feet) from its deepest foundation, spanning a length of 1.6 kilometers (5,200 ft) and featuring 26 flood gates, each measuring 13 meters (42 ft) in width and 14 meters (45 ft) in height. It operates collaboratively under the stewardship of both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

In addition to its engineering prowess and scenic charm, here are some notable facts about Nagarjuna Sagar Dam:

  • Gross storage capacity: 11.472 billion cubic meters (405.1×10^9 cu ft)
  • Effective capacity: 6.92 cubic kilometers or 244.41 Tmcft
  • Installed hydroelectric capacity: 960 MW
  • Cost: ₹2,000 crore (equivalent to ₹100 billion or US$1.2 billion in 2023)

 

Koyna Dam (Maharashtra) – This is a concrete gravity dam that generates hydroelectricity and provides irrigation.

koyna dam

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The Koyna Dam, a robust concrete gravity dam, stands resolutely on the Koyna River in Koyna Nagar, Satara district, Maharashtra, India. It ranks among the largest dams in India and holds the distinction of being the nation’s largest completed hydroelectric power plant, boasting a formidable installed capacity of 1,960 MW. This monumental structure took shape between 1961 and 1967 and derives its name from the Koyna River itself. It soars to a height of 103 meters (338 feet) and stretches across a substantial length of 3,645 meters (12,017 feet). The dam’s immense reservoir, known as Shivsagar Lake, boasts an astonishing capacity of 11.2 billion cubic meters (392 billion cubic feet).

The Koyna Dam assumes a critical role as a principal source of hydroelectric power for Maharashtra, supplying electricity to Mumbai, Pune, and various other cities within the state. Moreover, it serves as a lifeline for irrigation across more than 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres) of Maharashtra’s fertile land.

Here are some additional noteworthy facts about the Koyna Dam:

  • Cost: ₹1,800 crore (equivalent to ₹100 billion or US$1.2 billion in 2023)
  • Installed hydroelectric capacity: 1,960 MW
  • Annual irrigation: 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres)
  • Total catchment area: 5,700 square kilometers (2,200 square miles)

The Koyna Dam stands as a testament to Maharashtra’s commitment to harnessing its natural resources for the betterment of its people, even as it addresses and manages the complex challenges that come with such monumental projects.

Sardar Sarovar Dam (Gujarat) – This is a concrete gravity dam that generates hydroelectricity and provides irrigation.

sardar sarovar dam

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The Sardar Sarovar Dam, a monumental concrete gravity dam situated on the Narmada River in Gujarat, India, stands as a remarkable engineering marvel. It ranks as the second-largest dam in India, considering the sheer volume of concrete utilized in its construction, trailing only behind the Grand Coulee Dam in the United States. This colossal structure stretches a staggering 1,210 meters (3,970 feet) in length and reaches a towering height of 163 meters (535 feet). The Sardar Sarovar reservoir possesses a gross capacity of 0.95 million hectares meter, with a live storage capacity of 0.586 million hectares meter. Spanning an expansive area of 37,000 hectares, it exhibits an average length of 214 kilometers and a width of 1.7 kilometers, while the river catchment area above the dam site encompasses 88,000 square kilometers. Notably, the dam features a spillway with a discharging capacity of 87,000 cubic meters per second.

Integral to the Narmada Valley Project, the Sardar Sarovar Dam serves as a multi-purpose initiative, encompassing a hydroelectric power plant and an extensive irrigation system. Its construction spanned from 1961 to 2017, and it pays homage to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s inaugural Deputy Prime Minister.

The Sardar Sarovar Dam fulfills a critical role by providing irrigation water to a vast expanse of 18.45 lakh hectares (45.5 million acres) of land spanning Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. Additionally, it generates a substantial 1,450 megawatts (1,940,000 hp) of hydroelectric power, which powers industries and residences within the region. Furthermore, the dam plays a pivotal role in flood control within the Narmada River basin.

However, it’s important to note that the Sardar Sarovar Dam has not been without controversy, as environmental groups and certain local communities have voiced opposition to the project. Criticisms have centered around the displacement of thousands of people and the submersion of extensive forested areas. Despite these challenges, proponents of the dam argue that its benefits outweigh the costs.

Rihand Dam (Uttar Pradesh) – This is a concrete gravity dam that generates hydroelectricity and provides irrigation.

Rihand dam

 

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The Rihand Dam, a formidable concrete gravity dam, spans the Rihand River in Uttar Pradesh, India, within the confines of the Sonbhadra district. It ranks among the largest dams in India, with its construction taking place between 1952 and 1962. Towering at a height of 91 meters (300 feet) and stretching impressively over a length of 4.8 kilometers (3 miles), the dam’s reservoir, aptly named the Rihand Reservoir, boasts a voluminous capacity of 3.54 billion cubic meters (2,870,000 acre-feet).

The Rihand Dam serves as a versatile multipurpose project, offering irrigation, hydroelectricity, and flood control benefits. It facilitates irrigation across a vast expanse of 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) of land spanning Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, significantly enhancing agricultural productivity. Moreover, the dam generates 240 megawatts (320,000 hp) of hydroelectric power, an invaluable energy source that fuels industries and households in the region. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in mitigating floods within the Rihand River basin.

 

Mettur Dam (Tamil Nadu) – This is a masonry dam that generates hydroelectricity and provides irrigation.

mettur dam

 

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Mettur Dam, in Tamil Nadu, India, is the state’s largest and one of India’s significant masonry dams. Built from 1934 to 1939, it stands 214 feet (65 meters) high and 171 feet (52 meters) wide, creating the Stanley Reservoir with a vast capacity of 120 billion cubic feet (3.4 km³).

Mettur Dam serves vital roles: it irrigates more than 2.7 million hectares (6.7 million acres) of Tamil Nadu’s land, generates 240 megawatts (320,000 hp) of hydroelectricity for regional industries and homes, and plays a key role in flood control for the Kaveri River basin.

However, its construction displaced over 10,000 residents and submerged substantial forested areas, resulting in environmental impacts such as biodiversity loss and river siltation. Despite these challenges, Mettur Dam remains a crucial project for Tamil Nadu, providing essential irrigation, hydroelectric power, and flood management while stimulating the local economy.

Krishna Raja Sagara Dam (Karnataka) – This is a masonry dam that generates hydroelectricity and provides irrigation.

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Krishna Raja Sagara Dam (KRS Dam) in Karnataka, India, is the second largest in the state and one of India’s significant gravity dams. Constructed between 1911 and 1932, it’s named after Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, the ruler of the Mysore Kingdom. The dam, measuring 140 feet (43 meters) in height and 8,800 feet (2,700 meters) in length, forms the Krishna Raja Sagara Lake with a capacity of 483,350 million cubic feet (13.3 km³).

KRS Dam provides irrigation for over 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres) of Karnataka’s land and generates 100 megawatts (130,000 hp) of hydroelectricity for local industries and homes, aiding in flood control within the Kaveri River basin.

However, its construction displaced over 100,000 people, submerged extensive forests, and brought environmental concerns like biodiversity loss and river siltation. Nevertheless, KRS Dam remains a vital project for Karnataka, contributing to irrigation, hydroelectric power, flood management, and local economic growth. Additionally, it attracts tourists with its scenic beauty and serves as a significant source of drinking water for Mysore city.

Conclusion

Dams are an important part of India’s infrastructure. They play a vital role in providing water for irrigation, generating hydroelectricity, and controlling floods. Dams also have a significant impact on the environment, and it is important to carefully consider the environmental impacts of any proposed dam project.

FAQs

What are the benefits of dams?

Dams provide a number of benefits, including:

  • Irrigation: Dams can store water for irrigation, which is essential for agricultural production.
  • Hydroelectric power: Dams can generate hydroelectric power, which is a clean and renewable source of energy.
  • Flood control: Dams can control floods by storing excess water during the rainy season and releasing it slowly during the dry season.
  • Water supply: Dams can provide a reliable source of water for drinking, industrial, and other uses.
  • Recreation: Dams can provide opportunities for recreation, such as fishing, boating, and swimming.

What are the drawbacks of dams?

Dams also have a number of drawbacks, including:

  • Environmental impacts: Dams can have a significant impact on the environment, including displacing people, destroying habitats, and altering river flows.
  • Cost: Dams are expensive to build and maintain.
  • Safety risks: Dams can fail, which can cause flooding and other disasters.

How are dams regulated in India?

Dams in India are regulated by the Central Water Commission (CWC). The CWC is responsible for approving the construction of dams, monitoring their performance, and ensuring their safety.

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