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Tuesday, November 13, 2001

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Major disaster averted by alert watchman

By D. Srinivasulu

ATMAKUR (Kurnool Dt.), NOV. 12. A major disaster was averted at Velgode balancing reservoir in Kurnool district on Sunday night as an alert watchman, Badira Naik, noticed a leak in the reservoir through which water was gushing forth, and in four hours' time, the Irrigation Department staff used torchlights to plug the hole and save the reservoir.

At that time, the Velgode reservoir was holding 7.5 TMC ft of water. Had the leak been unattended to, the bund would have breached and people in about 60 villages, including Nandyal town, would have been put to great risk. An alert district administration sounded warning in the night, and people in Velgode, Jamminagar and Boyarevula villages spent a sleepless night, deserting their homes and moving to higher ground to escape an anticipated flood.

The leak was attributed to substandard work on the reservoir. The Chief Minister, Mr. N.Chandrababu Naidu, and others who reviewed the situation at Hyderabad, warned of strict disciplinary action against officials and contractors involved in the construction and maintenance of the reservoir. The Minister for Major Irrigation, Mr. Mandava Venkateswara Rao, and other Ministers - Messrs K.E.Prabhakar and N.Md. Farooq - who came by helicopter from Hyderabad to inspect the repair work, said that a surveillance team would be in place at the reservoir from tonight for a round-the-clock monitoring of the situation.

According to the Superintending Engineer, Mr. Prabhakara Reddy, about 60 cusecs of water flowed through the leak. The officer had a miraculous escape as he left the place to talk to the District Collector, Mr. Sai Prasad, and the Superintendent of Police, Mr. P.S.R.Anjaneyulu, who arrived on the scene and moments later, the mud bund caved in, widening the hole through which water was gushing forth.

The leak developed at a place where the bund caved in, and it was plugged by 4 am. People heaved a sigh of relief by sunrise, when news spread that the leak had stopped. The reservoir was receiving 3,500 cusecs from Telugu Ganga canal. This discharge was stopped and about 1,800 cusecs was released downstream to relieve pressure on the bund.

Mr. Mandava Venkateswara Rao told reporters that an expert team would arrive at Velgode on Tuesday from Hyderabad to suggest remedial measures. It was planned to store 9 TMC in the reservoir in order to support the ayacut under KC Canal with 2 TMC to overcome the crisis prevailing there. But the reservoir started to leak when the level stood at 258 metres above mean sea level, while the FRL was 264.7 M.

Mr. Venkateswara Rao said that the Government would fix responsibility for the substandard construction and take action against those responsible.

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