Kurichu Dam

Kurichu project wrongly blamed for floods in some districts of Assam

With the monsoon season at the doorstep again, one of the oldest but inaccurate pieces of news of floods in some districts of Assam being caused by water released from the 60 MW Kurichu project is doing the rounds in newspaper and social media in Assam and Delhi again.

The misinformation has now reached such a level where in mid June 2022 several news channels in Assam ran a month old video image of an Indian dam called the Karbi Langpi Aroi Dam in Assam opening its flood gates and called it the Kurichu Dam in Bhutan.

The online news portal EastMojo did a fact check and found this video to not be of Kurichu and in fact it said the Kurichu project had informed the Assam State Emergency Operation Center. The portal also quoted locals saying the water released from Kurichu did not cause any floods.

However, the disinformation carries on in Assamese Newspapers and even mainstream Indian newspapers as a seasonal event.

This time as Assam has been hit by unprecedented rains and flooding the false blame game has only gotten louder without a single Indian reporter or media outlet bothering to call the Kurichu Project or its parent body the Druk Green Power Corporation for the facts.

A lot of the disinformation on the Kurichu project and alleged flooding stems from the fact that news outlets and even officials in Assam assume that the project is a large reservoir or storage project releasing large volumes of water at will.

This could not be further from the truth as the 60 MW Kurichu project is a very small one by regional standards and a run-of-the-river project as it does not have much holding capacity.

The Kurichu project has a gross storage of 15.70 million cubic meters and of this it can only use 4.45 million cubic meters to generate power which means 11.25 million cubic meters cannot even be released.

Now compare this to the Bhagirathi Dam in Uttarkhand, India which stores 3,540 million cubic meters, Bhakra Dam in Himachal Pradesh which stores 9,867 million cubic meters or the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam in Telengana which stores 11,553 million cubic meters.

Even the Subansari Lower Dam in Arunachal Pradesh stores 1,643 million cubic meters.

A senior Kurichu project official said that the Kurichu Dam is not a storage dam but a run of the river project as the dam has very little capacity to store water and whatever comes in from the upstream is released downstream.

The official said that the only time additional water is released is when the dam needs to clear the blockage at the inlet tunnels and this too is not much and informed in advanced. He said that this year the Kurichu dam has not done any such release so far.

He said even when such releases are done on the rare occasion it is done very gradually and slowly.

The official said that the flow of the Kurichu river is around 761 cumecs these days, but it is nothing out of the ordinary and the same volume is released below.

The official said that since the project is a run of the river it has to let out the same volume of water that comes in otherwise stopping the water will result in the river immediately beaching the dam walls which will threaten its structural integrity.

The Kurichu official said that in earlier years in peak monsoon when the river flow was at 1800 to 2000 cumecs there would be no floods in some of the districts in Assam so it is difficult to see see how 761 cumecs would cause floods.

The official said that the Kurichu river is joined downstream by the Gongri river and it may be possible that when these two rivers join as the Kuri Gongri the water volume is higher but that is not due to the dam but the normal river flow and monsoon.

The official said that ironically if the people in some of the Assam districts want flood control on the Kuri Gongri river the solution is to build the 2,640 MW Kuri Gongri reservoir project that can also act as a flood control.

A DGPC official said the Central Water Commission is aware of the facts. Bhutan’s hydromet divison also has a unit of Indian officials who monitor river levels in Bhutan for flood warning in India.

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