Hirakud Dam, Orissa, India


Hirakud Dam (HD) in Orissa is the largest earthen dam in the world. It is a composite structure of earth, concrete and stone. The reservoir was built on Mahanadi River and located about 15 km upstream of Sambalpur, town. The project was the first multi-purpose river valley project in post independent India, the major motive being to control flood, irrigation and power generation [1, 2, 4].

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Basic Data
NameHirakud Dam, Orissa, India
SiteTown- Burla; District - Sambalpur
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Water access rights and entitlements
Land acquisition conflicts
Interbasin water transfers/transboundary water conflicts
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe multi-purpose Hirakud Dam constructed across the river Mahanadi. The aim of this project was to control flood, supply water for irrigation purpose and hydropower power generation. The construction of dam was started as in 1940’s. The first notification for the land acquisition was issued on 13 September 1946. Initially the notification for acquisition was issued to 95 villages [4].

The dam is the longest earthen dam in the world. Main dam is 4.8 km spans between two hills. It is further extended by about 21 km long earthen dykes, both on left and right sides. The catchment area has formed the biggest artificial lake in Asia with reservoir spread of 743 sq. km at full reservoir level.

The power generating units of Hirakund Dam HPS consists of the following units and capacities:

Four generating units with installed capacity 123 MW (2x37.5 + 2x24) at at Burla near the dam site

Two generating units with installed capacity of 75 MW (2 x 37.5)

Three generating units with installed capacity of 72 MW (3x 24) at Chiplima

Another Unit (37.5 MW) at Power House-I, Burla [2]
Project Area (in hectares)74,300
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population100,000-150,000
Start Date13/09/1946
Relevant government actorsGovernment of India
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersHirakud Budi Anchal Sangram Samiti, Hirakhand Nagarik Parishad (HKNP)

The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesHirakud Budi Anchal Sangram Samiti which is spearheading the movement of the Hirakud Displaced families has the following demand:

Land for housing and other purpose for every displaced family.

Compensation to each and every affected family.

The permanent land right to the families who are given temporary land right (patta)

The protection of interest of the fisher Community who are solely depend on the Reservoir

The dam should be kept pollution free and be given to agriculture purpose only.

The people who are opposing the water use by the industries demand the right of reservoir’s water should be given to the farmers for agricultural purposes. They are pressing that no other activities will be allowed beside agriculture from the dam water [3].
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Displacement and rehabilitation of the Hirakund Dam has been a major issue in Orissa politics since the 1950s. About 1.5 lakh people were affected by the Hirakud project. Initially it was estimated that, the project will submerge about 240 villages with fertile agricultural land of about 42,000 hectares. A total of about 26,561 families from 369 villages were affected and displaced. Although, 7,000 families affected families have been resettled in 17 rehabilitation camps and neighboring villages. Many of them are yet to get any form of compensation. Even the initial compensation paid to the limited number of people was inadequate. The land acquisition act at that time was not a suitable instrument for claiming compensation to the concern authorities. Since the starting of the construction of the project, the government of Orissa along with the local administration has been promising to look into the grievances of the displaced people. However, no concrete steps had been taken so far [1].
Sources and Materials

Forest Right Act
[click to view]

The Land Acquisition Act, 1894
[click to view]


Dams, Displacement, Policy and Law in India
[click to view]

Politics of water: The case of the Hirakud dam in Orissa, India by Balgovind Baboo
[click to view]

‘Million Revolts’ in the Making
[click to view]

SANDRP - Hirakud Dam: Fifty Mournful Years
[click to view]

EPW - Big Dams and Protests in India: A Study of Hirakud Dam

Arun Kumar Nayak
[click to view]

Economics of a multiple-purpose river dam : report of an inquiry into the economic benefits of the Hirakud dam

N.V. Sovani, Nilakanth Rath
[click to view]


[1] Hirakud dam: Displaced families seek rehabilitation
[click to view]

[2]Hirakud Power System
[click to view]

[3] Odisha: Hirakud Dam Displaced Families Protested Against State's Apathetic Attitude towards proper Rehabilitation and Resettlement
[click to view]

[4] Big Dams and Protests in India: A study of Hirakud Dam
[click to view]

[5] Orissa farmers protest use of dam water for industry
[click to view]

Media Links

Hirakud dam construction, 1958 from India, Matri Bhumi by Roberto Rossellini
[click to view]

War for Water (in Oriya)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Protest by Hirakud Displaced people Source : http://www.orissadiary.com/CurrentNews.asp?id=43466
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorSwapan Kumar Patra
Last update19/09/2014