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What went wrong at Panshet dam?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011 - 6:01pm IST | Place: Pune | Agency: DNA
Former state irrigation secretary Madhukar Deshmukh, who worked at Panshet dam (1958-59), explains the technicalities.

Believe it or not, but it was the total absence of the ubiquitous reinforced cement concrete (RCC) which resulted in the Panshet dam bursting on July 12, 1961.

Recalling the tragedy, former secretary of the state irrigation department, Madhukar Deshmukh (84), who worked as a deputy engineer at Panshet dam (1958-59) explained what actually went wrong.

According to Deshmukh, the dam was planned as a fully earthen one with a height of 200 feet. Given the nature of the dam, an outlet to the downstream Khadakwasla reservoir was created at its base.

Deshmukh said, "Ideally, the arch of the conduit should have been made from RCC. However, in those days, steel was in short supply and we were forced to use concrete blocks instead.''
According to Deshmukh, the force of the water was so great that it managed to dislodge the concrete blocks, which resulted in the earthen portion of the dam giving way. Deshmukh maintained that if RCC had been used, the accident could certainly have been averted.

This senior irrigation department's ex-official remembers working for close to 20 hours a day for eight months in what he termed as "inhospitable terrain". Deshmukh praised his seniors, the late SM Bhalerao, the then executive engineer of Panshet dam, and the late MR Panse, the then plant engineer at Panshet. "Both Bhalerao and Panse were brilliant engineers. It is unfortunate that they were blamed for the tragedy when it was not their fault.''

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