Special Correspondent

Efforts were made to plug the leak with sealants, says officials The matter was not brought to our notice, say officials of Irrigation Department

Engineers feel the wall collapse could have been avoided`Efforts were made to plug leaks with sealants'Atria Power adviser says the accident occurred owing to loosening of soil after rain

MYSORE: Was the accident at Atria Brindavan mini hydel power project near Krishnaraja Sagar Reservoir on Friday resulting in submergence of turbines and generators, avoidable?

A technical staff of the private company claimed that though all precautionary steps had been taken they had not anticipated this situation and hence were helpless. But engineers from the Cauvery Neeravari Nigama Ltd and the Irrigation Department told The Hindu that the collapse of the wall was a culmination of various things that went wrong and was not a sudden development and hence could have been avoided.

A senior technical officer from the Irrigation Department said there were several leaks in the wall resulting in incessant pressure on the concrete structure which gave away resulting in water gushing inside the power plant.

Second line of defence

But collapse of the concrete wall which was supposed to have acted as a second line of defence, after the iron gates, did not take place instantly. As the Irrigation Department staff said, the wall was leaking since the last few days but it was not brought to their notice. "What is more, efforts were made to plug the leak with sealants and a private company staff was at the job since the last one week but they have obviously failed in their attempts to plug the leak," according to officials from the Irrigation Department and the Cauvery Neeravari Nigama Ltd.

Seasonal supply

The mini hydel station is functional for eight months in a year and is seasonal, generating around 12 MW of power that is transmitted to the Pandavpura sub-station.

The turbines inside the plant that drive the generators to produce power, gets activated when the water is allowed to pass from the reservoir. The massive iron gates that are operated electromechanically help regulate the flow of water into the power plant and the turbines. The concrete wall is the second line of defence. But the wall collapsed and water gushed into the power plant and submerged the control section as well and the iron gates could not be operated.

M.S.Raghavendra, an adviser for Atria Power said the wall "yielded" as the ground water had been recharged owing to rains and the soil was affected due to increase in the ground water level. He said a detailed study was carried out and technical steps were in place but they had not anticipated this kind of a situation and added "this is the first such accident I have come across".

The first unit of the power plant was commissioned on July 11 and had a capacity to generate 6 MW of power while the second unit was to be commissioned within 15 days.

If the concrete wall collapsed due to ground water recharge and loosening of the soil, is the power plant safe? Mr. Raghavendra said the "foundation is solid" and the structure could be repaired. But experts from the Irrigation Department, who also maintain the Krishnaraja Sagar Reservoir and are well-versed in the maintenance of KRS, Kabini and other major dams, expressed their scepticism.