Damodar River in the lower reaches of the Chota Nagpur Plateau in dry season
|Location||Bokaro, Asansol, Raniganj, Durgapur, Bardhaman|
|Main source||Chandwa, Latehar, Chota Nagpur Plateau, Jharkhand|
|River mouth||Hooghly River, Howrah district, West Bengal|
|Length||592 km (368 mi)|
Damodar River (Pron: /ˈdæmoˌdaː/) is a river flowing across the Indian states of Jharkhand and West Bengal. Rich in mineral resources, the valley is home to large-scale mining and industrial activity. Earlier known as the Sorrow of Bengal because of its ravaging floods in the plains of West Bengal, the Damodar and its tributaries have been somewhat tamed with the construction of several dams. It is the most polluted river of India (by 2003).
Means "rope around the belly", derived from Sanskrit दाम (dama) "rope" and उदर (udara) "belly". This is another name of the Hindu god Krishna, given to him because his foster-mother tied him to a large urn.
It has a number of tributaries and subtributaries, such as Barakar, Konar, Bokaro, Haharo, Jamunia, Ghari, Guaia, Khadia and Bhera. The Damodar and the Barakar trifurcates the Chota Nagpur plateau. The rivers pass through hilly areas with great force, sweeping away whatever lies in their path. Two bridges on the Grand Trunk Road near Barhi in Hazaribagh district were torn down by the Barakar: the great stone bridge in 1913 and the subsequent iron bridge in 1946.
River of Sorrows
The Chota Nagpur Plateau receives an average annual rainfall of around 1,400 mm (55 in), almost all of it in the monsoon months between June and August. The huge volume of water that flows down the Damodar and its tributaries during the monsoons used to be a fury in the upper reaches of the valley. In the lower valley it used to overflow its banks and flood large areas.
Damodar River was earlier known as the "River of Sorrows" as it used to flood many areas of Bardhaman, Hooghly, Howrah and Medinipur districts. Even now the floods sometimes affect the lower Damodar Valley, but the havoc it wreaked in earlier years is now a matter of history.
The floods were virtually an annual ritual. In some years the damage was probably more. Many of the great floods of the Damodar are recorded in history — 1770, 1855, 1866, 1873–74, 1875–76, 1884–85, 1891–92, 1897, 1900, 1907, 1913, 1927, 1930, 1935 and 1943. In four of these floods (1770, 1855, 1913 and 1943) most of Bardhaman town was flooded.
In 1789 an agreement was signed between Maharaja Kirti Chand of Burdwan and the East India Company wherein the Maharaja was asked to pay an additional amount of ₹193,721 (US$2,800 or £2,100) for the construction and maintenance of embankment to prevent floods. However, these ran into dispute and in 1866 and 1873, The Bengal Embankment Act was passed, transferring the powers to build and maintain embankment to the government.
So great was the devastation every year that the floods passed into folklore, as the following Bhadu song testifies:
- We have sown the crops in Asar
- We will bring Bhadu in Bhadra.
- Floods have swollen the Damodar
- The sailing boats cannot sail.
- O Damodar! We fall at your feet
- Reduce the floods a little.
- Bhadu will come a year later
- Let the boats sail on your surface.
The Damodar Valley is spread across Hazaribagh, Ramgarh, Koderma, Giridih, Dhanbad, Bokaro and Chatra districts in Jharkhand and Bardhaman and Hooghly districts in West Bengal and partially covers Palamu, Ranchi, Lohardaga and Dumka districts in Jharkhand and Howrah, Bankura and Purulia districts in West Bengal with a command area of 24,235 square kilometres (9,357 sq mi).
The Damodar valley is rich in coal. It is considered as the prime centre of coking coal in the country. Massive deposits are found in the central basin spreading over 2,883 square kilometres (1,113 sq mi). The important coalfields in the basin are Jharia, Raniganj, West Bokaro, East Bokaro, Ramgarh, South Karanpura and North Karanpura.
The Damodar Valley is one of the most industrialised parts of India. Three integrated steel plants (Bokaro, Burnpur and Durgapur) of Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) and other factories are in the valley.
Damodar Valley Corporation (D.V.C.)
Several dams have been constructed in the valley, for the generation of hydroelectric power. The valley is called “the Ruhr of India”. Damodar Valley Corporation, popularly known as DVC, came into being on July 7, 1948, by an Act of the Constituent Assembly of India (Act No. XIV of 1948) as the first multipurpose river valley project of independent India. It is modeled on the Tennessee Valley Authority of the United States.
The initial focus of the DVC were flood control, irrigation, generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, eco-conservation and afforestation, as well as job creation for the socio-economic well-being of the people residing in and around areas affected by DVC projects. However, over the past few decades, power generation has gained priority. Other objectives of the DVC remain part of its primary responsibility. The dams in the valley have a capacity to moderate peak floods of 7,100 to 18,400 cubic metres per second (250,000 to 650,000 cu ft/s). DVC has created irrigation potential of 3,640 square kilometres (1,410 sq mi).
The first dam was built across the Barakar River, a tributary of the Damodar river at Tilaiya in 1953. The second one was built across the Konar River, another tributary of the Damodar river at Konar in 1955. Two dams across the rivers Barakar and Damodar were built at Maithon in 1957 and Panchet in 1958. Both the dams are some 8 kilometres (5 mi) upstream of the confluence point of the rivers. These four major dams are controlled by DVC. Durgapur Barrage was constructed downstream of the four dams in 1955, across the Damodar river at Durgapur in 1955, with head regulators for canals on either side for feeding an extensive system of canals and distributaries. In 1978, the government of Bihar (that was before the formation of the state of Jharkhand) constructed the Tenughat Dam across the Damodar river outside the control of DVC. It proposes constructing a dam across the Barakar river at Belpahari in Jharkhand state.
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