Artificial lakes – Sweet and Sour

Do you think this place is on earth? Indeed, it is. There is a mesmerising tranquillity and dreamy feel here. Its heavenly lake… entirely envelops you. It makes even the most ordinary, philosophical. You feel like singing. You are lost in its depth and height. You feel like watching it forever.


This lake is, in fact, the reservoir of Kalagarh Hydro-Electric Project in Uttarakhand. The paradox is that it was born after destruction of pristine forest which also resulted in fragmentation of remaining forest around. It impacts fish and other animals’ movements. The whole Ram Ganga river ecology was disturbed and changed. Ram teri Ganga Dammed!


Some facts and figures : The Kalagarh Dam, also known as the Ramganga Dam, is an embankment dam on the Ramganga River 3 km upstream of Kalagarh in Pauri Garhwal district, Uttarakhand, India. It is located within Corbett National Park with a height of 128 m. The construction which started in 1961 took 13 years for completion in 1974.


When I further Googled about the dam, and reviewed the UP Irrigation website, it is revealed that Dam Reservoir extends up to 13 km upstream to Dhikala in Corbett. Interestingly, the Irrigation department mentions the dam as ‘natural resort for variety of animals and birds’ while this is part of one of the oldest protected area and is counted among the best.


One painful aspect of the dam is that 88 persons died during construction! Methane gas emitting from its surface is adding to climate change impact. During the construction phase the entire forest and wildlife around was disturbed. Huge forest was given away for construction of colony for residence and other facility of workers and officials. Downstream, the river is a pity.


This is a different thing that these reservoirs – barrages and dams – are joints for migratory birds, source of fishes, home for crocs, water for drinking and fields, electricity… Kalagarh dam is reported to be irrigating 600 thousand hectare of additional land, producing 450 million units of electricity per year and providing drinking water even to Delhi. Across the country or may be world, many of these reservoirs have been developed as tourist attractions and many many people visit and enjoy the sight of lake, water fall, birds and forest around.


Leave aside the Kalagarh Dam, where entry is restricted, there are several dams which are tourist attraction  in Uttarakhand e.g. an artificial lake created by the dam built on the River Deoha, in the holy Sikh town of Nanakmatta, Nanak Sagar in Kumaon; Assan Barrage, a beautiful lake, 43 kilometres from Dehradun which is an hot spot for nature-lovers and birdwatcher; The backwaters of the Tehri Dam, a major hydro-electric project on the Bhagirathi River etc These lend themselves to picture perfect sceneries.


From the other end of the country, in Kerala, dams built for irrigation and hydro-electric projects, have been developed into places of tourism. There are 53 dams in Kerala of which Malampuzha Dam near Palakkad, the largest reservoir in Kerala;  Dams in Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary;  Mullaperiyar Dam on the Periyar river constructed in 1890s by the British Government which created the Periyar Thekkady reservoir in a remote gorge above 3000 ft; Idukki Arch Dam on the Periyar form a huge reservoir at a high altitude; Neyyar Dam 30 km from Trivandrum;  Banasura Sagar Dam on the Kabini river in Wayanad are worth special mentioning. Several reservoirs in Chhattisgarh are tourist attraction and one of popular ones is Gangrel Dam, also known as Ravishankar Dam, is a popular tourist spot of Dhamtari District, across the Mahanadi River, is the biggest and the longest dam in the state. This is the situation across the country.


These dams are indeed paradoxes – sweet and sour.



Pushp Jain

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