Saturday, November 21, 2020

Which is the Largest Dam in India?

Which is the Largest Dam in India?




Indira Sagar Dam build on Narmada River in Khandwa district of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has the largest reservoir capacity- 98,90,701 acre-feet by volume in India. It is a multipurpose project of Madhya Pradesh irrigating a land of 2.65 lakh hectares in the districts of Khandwa, Khargone, and Badwani in Madhya Pradesh as well as drought affected districts of Bhandara and Chandrapur in the state of Maharashtra apart from generating electrical power up to 1000 MW.

Indira Sagar Project (ISP) supports a number of downstream projects on Narmada basin; three of the main downstream projects are- Omkareshwar, Maheshwar and Sardar Sarovar Project. The project witnessed huge resettlement and rehabilitation during its construction. The construction started in 1992 and completed in 2005; the Indira Sagar Dam was then the biggest in terms of reservoir capacity by volume and has continued its legacy till today.


Narmada River originates at Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh and flows through the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra before draining into the Arabian Sea. Indira Sagar Dam is located on Narmada in Punasa village 10 kilometers from Mundi, a city in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh.

The dam is 195 km from Bhopal – capital of Madhya Pradesh, 125 km from Indore and 65 km from the Khandwa district headquarters. The back waters of the dam are surrounded by beautiful and pristine landscapes and are a major holiday tourist attraction for nearby cities. The backwater also host Hanumantiya Island developed by the state government as a measure to promote tourism.


The foundation stone for the dam was laid on 23rd October 1984 by the then Prime Minister of India Smt. Indira Gandhi. The main purpose of the project was to provide irrigation and generate substantial electricity for useful purposes.

Three years after its proposal the project got the conditional clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest on conditions like compulsory afforestation and development of the cultural command area which was to be covered in the project cost. The Ministry of Environment and Forest sanctioned the project on 7th October 1987.

The total estimated cost of the project including the power components, reservoir construction, rehabilitation and others was nearly INR 2300 crores at the time of foundation and the project was a joint venture between the State Government of Madhya Pradesh and National Hydro Power Corporation and was also partly funded by the Government of India.

The project received 230 crores in 7th five year plan and subsequently received a total allocation of INR 1845.94 crores in 8th and 9th five year plans. However the total cost of project during its commissioning in May 2005 was INR 4355.57 crores.

Structural and Technical Details

Indira Sagar Dam is a concrete gravity dam having a maximum height of 93 mtrs from the foundation and a length of 653 mtrs on top. A concrete gravity dam is built by a concrete or stone masonry to hold back water by balancing the horizontal pressure of water against the weight of material.


The dam has a diversion tunnel 688 mtrs long and 8 mtrs high and has got 20 radial gates of size 20X18 mtrs. The top of the dam has a width of 7.62 mtrs. The dam houses a power house with total installed capacity of 1000 MW. The power house has 8 units of Francis Turbines with each having an individual capacity of 125 MW.

The dam has the largest reservoir in India with a total capacity of 98,90,701 acre feet and an active capacity of 79, 04, 454 acre feet.


Indira Sagar Project (ISP) with its largest reservoir is the mother project of three other downstream projects on Narmada which directly depend on regulated release of water from Indira Sagar Dam; so are its beneficiaries.  Brief details of the projects are provided below-

1) Omkareshwar Project

Omkareshwar Project is a multipurpose project built on Narmada at the religious town of Omkareshwar, around 80 km from Indore. The dam serves the purpose of annual irrigation of 2,83,324 hectares of land and generation of hydropower with an installed capacity of 520 MW.

The project also provides drinking water to Khandwa, Khargaon, Barwani and Dhar districts of Madhya Pradesh. Omkareshwar project was commissioned in November 2007.

2) Maheshwar Project          

The project was launched by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) in 1975 primarily to provide electricity to the industries. The Power Plant has a total installed capacity of 400 MW.

In 1993 the concession of project was awarded to S. Kumar a textile magnate making the Maheshwar Project a first privately funded hydroelectric project in India.

3) Sardar Sarovar Dam

Sardar Sarovar Dam is built on Narmada near Navagam in Gujarat. The dam supplies electricity and water to the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

The power house has a total installed capacity of 1450 MW and irrigates around 17,920 sq km of land.



During the construction of the Indira Sagar Dam 249 villages were fully or partially submerged in water resulting in the relocation of over 20000 people and rehabilitating nearly 100 villages.

The districts affected by the construction were- Harda, Hosangabad and Devas in Madhya Pradesh. The dam displaced near around 80000 people in Madhya Pradesh; it also submerged nearly 40000 hectares of forest.

The per acre compensation fixed by the government was very low than the market price of that time. The government compensation for irrigated and unirrigated land was INR 60000 and INR 40000 respectively. Ironically the market price at that time was between INR 80000 to 100000.

Reportedly around 32 villages did not get any compensation at all and the project witnessed a series of protests by local villagers organized under social activists and local leaders.


The Indira Sagar Dam is a major source of electricity for the towns of Khandwa and Khargaon, with a installed capacity of 1000 MW it generates annual energy of 2698 million units, 1850 million units and 1515 million units; in stage I, II and III respectively.

The dam also irrigates a land of 2.65 lakh hectares and has a cultural command area of 1.22 lakh hectares. Besides, it is the mother project for all the downstream projects on Narmada basin.

Tourism and Water Sports

Located into the backwater of Indira Sagar Dam reservoir there is an Island called Hanumantiya Island which got its name from a nearby village having same name. Due to the abundance of water in the reservoir the Government of Madhya Pradesh developed this island as a water tourism destination.

The island is developed and promoted by the Madhya Pradesh Tourism and Development Corporation and hosts Hanumantiya Jal Mahotsav during the moths of October to January each year. During the Mahotsava the island is storming with tourists and buzzing with activities like- Water Jet Ski, Night Camping and much more.

The island is well connected with roads and has some decent hotels and restaurants nearby.


Q1) Where is Indira Sagar Dam located?

Ans- Indira Sagar Dam is located in Punasa village in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh.

Q2) On which river is the Indira Sagar Dam built?

Ans- The dam is built across the river Narmada.

Q3) Who laid the foundation stone for the dam and when?

Ans- The foundation of the dam was laid by the then Prime Minister of India Smt. Indira Gandhi on 23rd October 1984.

Q4)  How far is the dam from Bhopal and Indore?

Ans- The dam is 195 km from Bhopal and 125 km from Indore.

Q5) When was the project sanctioned by the Ministry of Environment and Forests?

Ans- The project got the sanction of MoEF on 7th October 1987.

Q6) When was the dam fully commissioned?

Ans- The dam was completely commissioned in May 2005.

Q7) What was the total cost of the project?

Ans- Total cost at the time of commissioning was INR 4355.57 crores.

Q8) What is the maximum height of the dam?

Ans- Maximum height of the dam is 93 meters from the deepest foundation.

Q9) How much is the length of the main section of the dam?

Ans- The length of the main section of the dam is 653 meters.

Q10) What is the total reservoir capacity of the dam?

Ans- Total reservoir capacity of the Indira Sagar Dam is 98,90,701 acre feet.

Q11) What is active reservoir capacity of the dam?

Ans- Active reservoir capacity of the Indira Sagar dam is 79,04,454 acre feet.

Q12)  How much is the total installed capacity of the dam?

Ans- The Power house of the dam has a total installed capacity of 1000 MW (8×125 MW).

Q13) How much land does the dam irrigates?

Ans- The dam irrigates a total land of 2.65 lakh hectares.

Q14) Name few important downstream projects of Narmada basin.

Ans- 1. Omkareshwar Project, 2.Maheshwar Project and 3.Sardar Sarovar Project.

Q15) How many villages were partially/fully submerged during its construction?

Ans- 69 villages were fully submerged and around 180 villages were partially submerged.

Q16) How much area of forest had to be submerged for dam’s construction?

Ans- Around 40000 hectares of forest was submerged for the construction of the dam.

Q17) How many people were displaced during the dam’s construction?

Ans- Around 30000 families and 80000 people were displaced by the construction of dam.

Q18) How much is the Culturable Command Area of the dam?

Ans- The dam has a Culturable Command Area of 1.23 lakh Hectares.

Q19) How many spill gates does the Indira Sagar Dam has?

Ans- Indira Sagar Dam has 20 radial gates.

Q20) Which Island is developed as water tourism destination by Madhya Pradesh Tourism and Development Corporation?

Ans- Hanumantiya Island located into the backwater of Indira Sagar dam.

Which is the Oldest Dam in India?

Which is the Oldest Dam in India?




Kallanai Dam (Grand Anicut) is the oldest dam (first dam) in India. Dams are barriers built across rivers to restrain the flow of water and this water confinement helps to stop the natural course of river and directs the water to a different place. In earlier times, dams were built for the development and human purposes which included:

1) To solve irrigation issues across various states of India

2) Generation of hydroelectricity

3) To regulate flooding

With the evolution of society, significance of dams has decreased as they are now considered to be responsible for environmental degradation and societal destruction. They are no more regarded as symbols of progress and growth rather are criticized as causing displacement and rehabilitation.

The Kaveri River rises from Kodagu in Western Ghats in Karnataka and flows to the Bay of Bengal with certain drainage area residing in the state of Tamil Nadu. During the peak of monsoon season, river Kaveri gets flooded which swamps large areas creating number of problems and difficulties for the local people.

Kallanai Dam also referred to as Grand Anicut is the diversion dam constructed to restrict the natural flow of Kaveri River. It is regarded as the oldest dam in India which is still in use and saved the people residing in surrounding areas from the furies of flood created by an excessive flow of water.


  • Kallanai Dam is the oldest dam in India.
  • Fourth oldest dam in the world.
  • Built across Kaveri River in south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
  • Located 15 Kms from Tiruchirapally district of Tamil Nadu.
  • At a distance of 4 Km from Lalgudi Railway station.
  • Kallanai is also called as ‘Grand Anicut’.
  • Built nearly 2000 years ago by Chola king Karikala.
  • Built to improve irrigation and also to prevent his kingdom from flood.
  • Basic anatomy of the dam included sinking big stones to divert the river.
  • The dam was re-modeled by British Engineer Capt, Caldwell in 19th
  • The dam is 329 mtr long, 20 mtr wide and 5.4 mtr high.
  • Caldwell raised the height of the dam by 69 mtrs thus increasing its water holding capacity.
  • A dam named ‘Lower Anaicut’ was also built across Kollidam (coleroon) River a major tributary of Kaveri to prevent siltation.
  • Ancient dam irrigated an area of 60000 acres.
  • Modern re-modeled dam irrigates an area of one million hectares.



It is easily accessible from major cities as it is located 47 km south east of district Thanjavur in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Tiruchirappalli district is 16 km away from Kallanai Dam and is connected to Chennai and New Delhi through various means of transport.  The entire Grand Anicut consists of three major regulators which are categorized as:

  • Head of Kaveri
  • Vennar
  • Grand Anicut Canal

Apart from the head regulator, a sub regulator on the Northern bank of Kaveri discharges flood waters into Kollidam which is actually known by the name Kallanai. The unique feature about this dam is that it is highly effective and efficiently created in comparison to modern dams of the 21st century.


The oldest water regulating structure in the world was constructed by Chola Dynasty ruler Karikal Cholan in the 2nd century A.D. Kallanai is considered to be the earliest work in South India for the development of water resources. The dam was re – constructed by the Britishers in the 19th century.

In the year 1804, Captain Caldwell, a military engineer, was appointed by the British administration to study the Kaveri River and draft a plan to promote irrigation for the delta region. He examined the entire area and initiated a report stating that “huge amount of water passed onto the Kollidam leaving behind a small volume for irrigation purposes”.


He proposed a solution to raise the construction of dam initially which was implemented and the height of the dam was increased to 69 centimeters which ultimately intensified its capacity as well. British contribution is not only seen in terms of Kallanai dam but they also paid relevant attention to boost irrigation in the state of Tamil Nadu. In 1837 Sir Arthur Cotton authorized the construction of two large regulators across Coleroon, the major tributary of river Kaveri:

  • The first regulator was constructed at the head of Coleroon called Upper Anicut which helped in the diversion of water to the Delta.
  • The other regulator was identified as Lower Anicut which was considered as a terminal point from where water was placed in Veeranam Tank.
  • These regulators saved Delta from deterioration due to silt deposits.


In structural terms, finest dams are identified through architectural design and material used. The constructional method to be adopted largely depends on conditions of the area where dam needs to be constructed, material availability in combination with labor affordability, accessibility to transportation networks. Earlier dams were built with masonry, earth fill and rock fill, but in terms of modern construction of dams, they are made with absolute concrete.

Kallanai dam is built with uneven stones, which is 329 meters in length and 20 meters (at base) in terms of breadth. It is constructed with large boulders i.e. the dam was initially built with rocks and at a later stage it was remodeled with concrete during the time of Britishers. The material used for the dam was solid rocks which were cut through the process of punching hole, wooden wedge, adding water and breaking.

The rocks were directly positioned in the path stretching to the river Kaveri and stones were placed in respected places. The major limitation of this process is that high intensity thrust cannot be initiated to place the stones so in this circumstance, stones were immersed into the river through loading process.

Through this process, stone were placed in the bottom and another stones are then placed on the top and erosion process automatically fits the stone in the right direction. The sand bed on the river Kaveri provides extensive strength and durability to the strong structure built at the first stage and displays knowledge of our engineers and ancestors.

Contemporary Relevance

Agriculture is not only the main source of livelihood for the people living around Kaveri Delta but also whole of Indian sub-continent majorly dependent on agriculture. Cultivation is the main occupation due to fertility of the soil which is ideal for growth of crops such as pulses, sugar cane, banana etc.

This aspect rightly summarizes the area as “Rice bowl of South India”. In today’s times too, Grand Anicut feeds number of people living in different parts of India. Food security of the state mainly depends on Kaveri River basin which is popular for rice production.


In consideration with contemporary relevance, biodiversity of the region is being threatened as population is getting intensified but agricultural conditions in the area have decreased due to change in rainfall pattern. Shortage of water can only be enhanced through rain water harvesting strategies and techniques.

Farmers need to shift from pulses cultivation to high quality flower, vegetable and fruit production which would bring in rich dividends which were destroyed through agricultural cultivation as it requires heavy rainfall at appropriate times. Awareness needs to be generated at local level to initiate new methods which would bring in more resources to the farmers.

Fishing is also a major activity which can be undertaken for survival purposes by the farmers which will not make them dependent only on agriculture solely.

Drainage issue is another major consideration of people living near Kallanai Dam. Ensuring irrigation supply is one issue and draining the surplus water is another. This surplus water is accumulated through floods, and heavy rains. The terrain slope near the delta region is mild which takes longer time for water to flow down the drainage system. This destroys and damages the crops as they are immersed in water for longer duration of time which even reduces the fertility of the soil.

De-silting of drainage rivers being carried towards the delta, should be carried out more efficiently by classifying the worst affected area in combination with calculating the flood intensity in the area and flood carrying capacity of drainage rivers. Drainage rivers should be cleaned which means that weeds should be removed that damages the environment altogether.

Aquaculture farms are found all along the coast of the delta. These aquaculture farms are designed in the form of tanks with raised embankments on four sides and are positioned in the small gap between farms through a small chain.  This chain of tanks turns into a fort wall averting floodwater from approaching the sea immediately. Aqua farms are created to block the heavy flow of water which takes longer time for water to reach small gaps in farms.


You might be wondering that how is Kallanai considered as a tourist destination? The Grand Anicut is an operative dam, a tourist destination, and a significant symbol of Indian history. During the British era, Indians were deliberated as backward and their intelligence was questioned but the British rulers were shocked to observe the construction technique of Kallanai dam which completely changed their perspective about Indian rulers and its people.

This gives us a feeling of India’s rich and integral history. It’s a true marvel and the Karikal Chozan building near the dam has only been an addition element to its appeal. The most interesting fact about the dam is its water dispersal technique which should truly be studied by future generation.


The oldest dam structures like the Kallanai dam were constructed to perfection. Engineers allocated to build modern dams should refer to the construction techniques of the older dams which are still running strong even today. This will in turn modify the thought process as modern day dams are meant for destruction and replacement. Thus, we should borrow construction strategies of earlier rulers and engineers which without destroying the environment have made structures which are still durable and in use.


Q1) Where is Kallanai Dam located?

Ans- The Kallanai Dam is located in Tiruchirapally district of Tamil Nadu.

Q2) Who build the Kallanai Dam?

Ans- The dam was constructed by the chola king Karikalan in 2nd century A.D.

Q3) On which River is the Kallanai Dam built?

Ans- Kallanai Dam is build across the river Kaveri.

Q4) How old is the Kallanai Dam?

Ans- The dam was build nearly 2000 years ago.

Q4) What is the world ranking of Kallanai Dam?

Ans- It is the fourth oldest dam in the world.

Q5) What was the main purpose for building the Kallanai dam?

Ans- To divert water of Kaveri for irrigation.

Q6) Is Kallanai Dam is used for hydroelectric production?

Ans- No, the dam has no hydro-electric production plant and is purely used for agriculture and containing flood.

Q7) Who remodeled the Kallanai Dam and when?

Ans- The dam was remodeled by a British Engineer Captain Caldwell in 1804.

Q8) What is other name for the Kallanai Dam?

Ans- Kallanai Dam is also known as the Upper Anicut.

Q9) What is the length and width and height of the Kallanai Dam?

Ans- The dam is 329 mtr long, 20 mtr wide and 5.4 mtr high.

Q10) How much area of land was initially irrigated by the Kallanai Dam?

Ans- Nearly 60000 acres.

Q11) How much area does the Kallanai Dam irrigates today?

Ans- Almost 1000000 acres or 1 million acres.

Q12) What is the Kallanai Dam Timings?

Ans- Kallanai Dam Timing is 10am – 6pm.