The project consists of the construction of (a) two dams at Bhakra and Nangal, (b) the Bhakra canal system commanding a gross area of about 27.4 lakh hectares, (c) the Nangal hydel channel, (d) four power houses at Ganguwal, Kotla, left bank and right bank power houses with total installed capacity of 1,204 mw, and (e) construction of 3,680 km long transmission lines to distribute electricity to neighbouring areas. The Bhakra-Nangal project is the largest multi-purpose project of the country.
Bhakra Dam-This dam, completed in 1963, has been built across the Satluj river near the Bhakra gorge (about 80 km north of Ambala).
It is regarded as the highest straightway gravity dam in the world.
The dam is 518 m long and 226 m high and creates a reservoir (Govindsagar Lake) of 88 km long and 8 km wide with a gross storage capacity of 9, 868 m cu. m. During the construction of the dam the river was diverted through two 0.8 km long and 15 m diameter diversion tunnels through the hills.
Nangal Dam-this dam has been constructed across the Satluj River at Nangal about 13 km downstream of Bhakra. It serves as a balancing reservoir for taking up daily fluctuations from the Bhakra dam. The dam is 305 m long, 121m wide and 29 m high with storage capacity of 39,000 ha m. Its waterway consists of 28 bays 10 m wide, each provided with a steel gate.
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Nangal Hydel Channel-It is 64 km long and 8 métier deep. It runs along the left bank and is cemented throughout its course. It has 58 arches. It supplies water to the Bhakra irrigation canal and turns turbines to generate hydel power.
Power Houses-there are four power houses built under the project. Ganguwal power house lies 19 km away from Nangal. It has 2 units of 24 mw each and 1 unit of 29.5 mw. Kotla power house is located 29 km away from Nangal. It also has same number of units with total installed capacity of 77.5 mw. Two other power houses located along the left and right banks have installed capacity of 450 mw and 600 mw respectively. The total installed capacity of hydel power under Bhakra-Nangal project thus comes to 1205 mw.
Transmission Lines-The hydroelectricity generated under the project is transmitted through 3,680 km long transmission lines to Rupar, Ambala, Karnal, Panipat, Hisar, Bhiwani, Rohtak, Nabha, Patiala, Kasauii, Shimla, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Gurgaon, Rewari, Faridkot, Firozpur, Kalka, Pathankot, Rajpura, Hansi, Muktsar, Fazilka and Delhi. Delhi and Ludhina have been linked through 200 and 132 kwt double transmission lines respectively. Panipat, Hansi, Hisar, Rajarh and Ratangarh are supplied power through 312 kwt line. The hydel power is also used for running tube-wells in Punjab and Haryana (Jagadhari area) and operating trains between Ludhiana and Delhi.
Bhakra Canal System-The Bhakra Canal system covering a gross area of 27.4 lakh hectares was completed in 1954. The Bhakra Main Canal originating from Rupar is 174 km long and irrigates 14.6 lakh hectares of land. It has two branches : (a) paved (Bhakra canal), and (b) unpaved (Fatehgarh branch).
The canal system consists of 1,104 km long canals and 3,360 km long distributaries. Bist Doab Canal (1,090 km long irrigating Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar and eastern districts of Punjab); Narvanacanal (originating from Bhakra main canal is 103 km long irrigating parts of Karnal district); Sarhind canal (provided additional water through Bhakra canal) are important branches of canals. The project provides irrigation facilities to Jalandhar, Firozpur, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Ambala, Hisar, Karnal districts in Punjab and Haryana and Bikaner division in Rajasthan and has helped in the additional production of foodgrains, cotton, sugarcane and oilseeds.
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Under the Punjab Reorganisation Act (1966) the management of the Bhakra and Beas projects was entrusted to Bhakra Management Board and the Beas Construction Board. These have been merged together to constitute the Bhakra-Beas Management Board (BBMB).
The project is facing the menacing problem of siltation of the reservoir due deforestation in the Himalayas. The reservoir which had total storage capacity of 3.547 million ha m was reduced to 3.235 million ha m in 1988 due to siltation. This, if goes unchecked, will undoubtedly reduce the longivity of the project.