Hirakud Dam, located on the Mahanadi River in the Indian state of Odisha, is about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) far from Sambalpur. Behind the dam lies the lake, Hirakud Reservoir, 55 km (34 mi) long. It is one of the first major multipurpose river valley projects to begin after India’s independence. It’s the biggest dam in India. It’s also in the world’s fourth-largest reservoir.
Before the devastating floods of 1936, Sir M. Visveswararya proposed a detailed investigation of the Mahanadi reservoirs to address the problem of floods in the Mahanadi delta. It was decided in 1945 to invest in the potential benefits of regulating the Mahanadi for multifunctional purposes under the leadership of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar the Labor Member.
The Central Waterways, Irrigation and Navigation Commission was take up the work. On 15 March 1946, sir Hawthorne Lewis, the Governor of Odisha, laid the foundation stonemason for the Hirakud Dam. In June 1947, the state issued a planning study. On 12 April 1948, the first batch of concrete was laid by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
In 1952, Mazumdar Committee was appointed by the government to oversee the soundness and technical feasibility of the project. The panel envisaged the development of a central reservoir by June 1955, with a cost of 92.80 crores. In addition, the Commission estimated that by 1954–55, there would be maximum irrigation of 1347,000 acres (545,000 ha) and 48 GW of electricity generated.
The dam was completed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on 13 January 1957 and officially opened by him. The total cost of the project was ₹1,000.2 million (equivalent to ₹75 billion or US$1.1 billion in 2018) in 1957. Power generation and irrigation started in 1956 and achieved full capacity in 1966.
16.5 km from Sambalpur, Odisha
1.01 billion Rs in 1953
Dam and spillways
Type of dam
Composite dam and reservoir
60.96 m (200 ft)
4.8 km (3 mi) (main section)
64 sluice-gates, 34 crest-gates
42,450 cubic metres per second (1,499,000 cu ft/s)
5,896,000,000 m3 (4,779,965 acre⋅ft)
83,400 km2 (32,201 sq mi)
PowerHouse I (Burla): 2 x 49.5 MW, 3 x 37.5 MW, 2 x 32 MW Kaplan-type
The Hirakud Dam is earth, concrete, and masonry composite structure. It is the longest major earth dam, which is about 10 km (6.2 mi) north of Sambalpur in India, measuring 25.8 km of the river Mahanadi, including its dekes. The largest reservoir is 4.8 km long (3.0 mills) running around two hills; on the left, Laxmidungri and on the right, Chandili Dunguri. The dam is flanked by 21 km (13 mi) of earthen dikes on both the left and right sides, closing the low saddles beyond the adjoining hills.
Together, the reservoir and the dikes weigh 25.8 km (16.0 mi). The reservoir, which holds a total capacity of 743 km2 with a shoreline of more than 639 km (397 mi) is the largest artificial lake in India as well. On each side of the dam, there are two observation towers. One is “Gandhi Minar” and the second is “Jawahar Minar.” The towers offer a large panorama of the lake.
Powerhouses: The dam supports two different hydroelectric powerhouses. PowerHouse I is located at the base (toe) of the main dam section and contains 3 x 37.5 MW Kaplan turbine and 2 x 24 MW Francis turbine generators for an installed capacity of 259.5 MW. The Power Station II is situated at the south-east end in Chipilima at 19 km (12 mi) from the reservoir at 21 ° 21′10′′N 83 ° 55′′′E.
It includes a generator of 3 x 24 MW. The maximum installed capacity of the dam is 347.5 MW. PowerHouse I and II were built in three stages. During stage I, four generators were installed at PH I and in stage II, the power channel two and Power House II were constructed. All three generators were installed at PH II along with two more at PH I by 1963. The 7th and final generator was mounted on PH I between 1982 and 1990.
The dam helps control floods in the Mahanadi delta and irrigates 75,000 km2 (19×106 acres) of land. Hydroelectricity is also generated. The 83,400 km2 of Mahanadi’s Drainage is controlled by the Hirakud Dam. The reservoir has a storage capacity of 5.818 km3 (1.396 cu mi) with a gross of 8.136 km3 (1.952 cu mi).
It drains an area of 133,090 km2 (32.89×106 acres), more than twice the area of Sri Lanka. To make an eight m (26 ft) wide pathway and to pave from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and from Amritsar to Dibrugarh in Assam, earth, concrete and masonry materials used to build the dam are enough. Sambalpur is named the rice bowl of Odisha with good irrigation provided by the reservoir.
The second Hirakud Dam hydroelectric plant, Chiplima, has gained prominence. Electricity is generated by a natural drop of between 80 and 120 ft (24 to 37 m) in the Mahanadi river. The place is mostly populated by fishermen. There is the state cattle breeding farm and agricultural farm here.
The Dam of Hirakud consists of the Bargarh Main Canal, the Canal of Season and the canal of Sambalpur.
Water from Hirakud’s Dam was allocated to a wide range of industries in Jharsuguda and Sambalpur, mainly mineral processing and coal-fired thermal plants.
The water capacity of the dam is reduced by 28 percent due to siltation according to statistics published by the dam authority.
The major water conflict was reported when over 30,000 farmers gathered around the dam’s man-made chain to protest the allocation of water to the industries and because of the low water levels no water was available to the canal system.
The dam with the canal provides an ideal environment for wildlife. Here is the refuge for the fauna of Dibrugarh. In winter many migratory bird species visit the dam. Around 20-25 bird species are present in the lake. These include common pochard, red-crested pochard, great crested grebe and several others.
People affected by the dam construction
The Hirakud Dam was mainly intended to manage the major floods impacting much of the coastal Odisha region. The construction of the dam, however, greatly affected the citizens of Odisha in the west. The Hirakud project-affected approximately 150,000 persons and displaced close to 22,000 families.