The waters of the Satluj River in the Himalayas of Northern India transition from green in the winter, when flows are low, to chocolate brown in summer when snow melt higher up causes flows to ramp up and the river carries increasing amount of sediment. Not only is sediment bad for the turbines at the generating section, far down stream, but it also increases the abrasiveness of the water in the Head Race Tunnel (HRT), wearing away the rock and concrete lining of the tunnel. During the August 2000 flood, sediment laden flood waters sand blasted the exposed dam sluiceway piers right down to the reinforcing steel, and actually wore down the nubs on the steel itself. On top of this, the soft waters of the Satluj River are normally fairly hard on concrete to begin with, and don't need assistance in wearing it down.
The Nathpa Jhakri Hydroelectric Project therefore includes a large desilting works, consisting of four 500 metre long underground desilting chambers and the related intake works and network of connection tunnels, plus a silt flushing tunnel that returns silt from the collection hopper of each desilting chamber back to the river.
When I arrived in February 1999, the excavation of the desilting chambers themselves was well underway, as well as most of the connection tunnels. The intake works, on the other hand, were still being excavated and concrete work had not yet begun.
|The desilting chambers are labelled at the top centre of the diagram, and are shaded in blue, along with the intake tunnels and the start of the head race tunnel. The Intakes are coloured green, just above the dam.|
|A diagram showing the four desilting chambers in section, along with the upper access tunnel, stairwell shafts, and access galleries.|
A manifold of four tunnels join the bellmouths at the downstream end of each chamber with the Head Race Tunnel (HRT).
|Plan view of the intakes showing the trash rack and bellmouths to intake tunnels 1 through 4.|