No terror attack can damage Bhakra: Dam builder
New York: No terror attack can damage India's Bhakra dam, an Indian American engineer who built one of its two powerhouses has asserted after intelligence reports indicated the 225-m high structure was on the hit list of Pakistan-based terrorists.
Los Angeles-based Awtar Singh said on phone,"No possibility. Nothing short of atom bombs can damage this dam. It is so solidly built. Terrorist groups don't have any power to damage it."
In its report to security agencies, India's Intelligence Bureau (IB) has alerted them that Pakistan-based terror outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) are training their cadres in cliff-climbing, swimming across water channels and handling explosives with the intention to attack the dam, located near the border between Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.
Singh said terrorists could possibly damage only the powerhouses.
"But the two powerhouses are hidden. To damage them, any terrorist attack should be huge and very accurate. Considering the location of these powerhouses, I don't think there is even remote possibility of that ever happening."
Asked whether future threats were taken into consideration when they designed the dam, which is India's highest, Singh said, "No, no such possibilities were taken into consideration because this dam is so strong and full of concrete that nothing can damage it."
The octogenarian engineer added, "The lifetime of such dams is 100 years or so, but nothing will happen to the Bhakra Dam except silting. So this dam has unlimited lifetime."
Though he ruled it out, Singh agreed that if the dam is ever damaged, its waters could cause huge damage in north India. "Because there is a huge amount of water behind the dam."
Work on the dam - India's first and biggest hydroelectric project that Jawaharlal Nehru called the "temple of resurgent India" - started just after the country's independence in 1947 and was completed in 1963. The nearly 90-km long reservoir, Gobind Sagar, created by the dam can hold over 9,300 million cubic metres of water. This is enough to flood major parts of north India, including Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi.
Singh, who did his BE from Punjab Engineering College (then located in Roorkee) in 1949, was a member of the original Bhakra dam construction team in 1951.
"I was sent to the US to get training before I was put in charge of one of the powerhouses. We visited various powerhouses in the US for six months before going back to take charge of the project. For six years, we worked our backs off."
Singh, who left for the US after the completion of the dam to earn his Ph.D and teach at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), is credited with setting up the first Indian fellowship at the University of California at Berkeley given each year to the civil engineering topper from his alma mater Punjab Engineering College.
He may be the only surviving member of the core Bhakra dam team.
The dam was described by former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru as the "temple of resurgent India".
The IB said the dam's security was being handled by multiple agencies - central para-military forces and aided by the Himachal and Punjab Police - "leading to confusion and dilution of responsibility. There should be a single agency responsible for security of the entire project".