Recent floods continue to test Musi Project

Water gushes out of the Musi Project with its nine gates opened.   | Photo Credit: SingamVenkataramana

Musi project in Nalgonda continues to face one of the biggest tests of flood in its 57 years of service, as torrential rain in upstream Hyderabad threaten to continue heavy inflows.

The project which can hold 4.46 tmc ft water at full reservoir level (FRL) of 645 feet and provide irrigation to 30,000 acres in its command area, has set new records this season.

Not only has the impounded water crossed the FRL by up to three feet, but also the outflow, on October 14 alone, was an unprecedented 16 tmc ft, 3.58 times the project’s gross capacity. The total discharge for two successive days was 25 tmc ft, say officials.

By contrast, the total discharge from the project to downstream between June and October this year was 38 tmc ft.

The recent bout of heavy rains is is also one of the rarest times when officials breached a section of the dam to let out up to 25,000 cusecs of water. The dam was breached near the abutting Ratnapuram village in “an emergency move”.

According to records at the project office, the 1983 flood saw the maximum inflows of about 2.28 lakh cusecs, in comparison the project received nearly 2.5 lakh cusecs in the past few days. The maximum flood capacity of the project is 4 lakh cusecs. In 2005 and 2013, water levels rose up to the embankment, however, related figures of inflows and outflows were unavailable.

Is the current swelling flood a threat to the dam? District Minister and Energy Minister G. Jagadish Reddy recently dismissed the question of a threat and said: “There is no danger to Musi or the ayacut. This is an unprecedented flood, from Hyderabad and Bikkeru Vagu, receiving more than 2 lakh cusecs. We breached a section of the dam and officials are monitoring the levels.”

However, the project officials said: “The question of Musi dam safety is dependent on the gates and their operation and their capacity to withstand the flows and not about the volume of flood received and discharged. The structure is fine.”

Maintenance of the project was in question in October 2019, when a regulatory gate got washed away, and more than 4 tmc ft impounded water, at 643 feet, drained in a few days. This brought into focus the maintenance as all the gates had been replaced with new ones at an estimated cost of ₹18 crore in 2015. Thankfully, subsequent bountiful rains filled the reservoir, which not only saved face for the administration but also served the needs of the farmers in the ayacut.

The recent rains too tested the maintenance of the project. On October 14, when 13 gates (of the total 12 crest gates and eight regulatory gates) were operated to a height of 10 feet, crest gate no. 9 failed to open as its counterweight had snapped in August this year. Fortunately, the 35-ton beam did not break the gate, but fell away. The gate is not working well, the officials agree.

On Tuesday, when this correspondent visited the site, workers and welders were busy patching up the foot of regulatory gate no. 2. Other gates also show leakages, or throw up problems at closing and opening, officials said.

It is not just the gates, the nearly six-decade-old dam is also visibly old, with the meagre staff that is ready for retirement, and the decrepit stairs and cracked structures. The border railings of the earth dam and the gate columns, braced with sticks and wires like bandages, welcome officials and visitors alike.

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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 1:01:31 AM |

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