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Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar -- Instrumental in creating the Multi Purpose River Valley Projects and Large Dam Technologies in India;

If there any person who played the most central role in introducing large dam technologies and Multi Purpose Projects into India, the person was none other than Revolutionary Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar. According to Petty minded Indians, Dr.Babasaheb is mostly related only with two things. One is ‘Architect of Indian Constitution’ and other as the leader of some particular section. But “Founding Father of Modern India” who contributed in the various field to our nation is totally ignored and hiding.

After all how many Indians know Dr.Babasaheb was instrumental in creating and outlined the projects like,
1) Damodar Valley project ( the first multipurpose river valley project in India ) in 1944 on the lines of Tennessee Valley Authority,
2) Bhakra-Nangal dam ( India's biggest multipurpose river valley project, Highest gravity dam in India ),
3) The Sone River Valley projects and
4) Hirakud dam ( Longest dam in India ) ….????

Babasaheb introduced the idea of establishment of Multipurpose river projects in India who was influenced on the lines of Tennessee Valley project. He was the 1st person in India has make effort for the establishment of Damodar Valley project. He was the pioneer of Multipurpose river projects in India.

a) Damodar Valley project:
Damodar valley is know as 'Sorrow of Bengal' because of the problems of flooding. To tackle the problem Babasaheb had entrusted the work of planning and designing to Central Power Board set up the machinery and directed the planners, engineers who executive the plan prepared under his guidence. Till 1946, the responsiblity for the Damodar Valley project was under Babasaheb. Afterwards the entire work for the dam was given over to Damodar Development Corporation.
Here I just extract the address speech of Dr.Babasaheb before the representatives of Bengal and Bihar Governments at a Conference held in Calcutta on January 3 , 1944 to discuss the means and methods for developing Damodar Valley as a Member, Labour, Irrigation and Electric Power Department in the Executive Council of the Viceroy. He said, "The Damodar project must be a multi-purpose project. We intend that it should not only deal with the problem caused by floods, it should also provide for irrigation, electricity and navigation. Along with the question of a site, these matters have also to be examined."

On April 23 and 24, 1945 at New Delhi under the Chairmanship of the Dr. Babasaheb, it was Rs. 55 crores recommended to Damodar River Project for starting immediately the construction of the first dam (at Tilaiya). After considering the reports of the central Technical Power Board and the advice of the Tennessee Valley Authority engineers, Ross Reigel and Fred C. Schlemmer, and their associates, Rai Bahadur A. N. Khosia and Mr. M. Narasimhaiya, Chief Engineer, Mysore State, the conference was convinced-of the advisability of pushing forward as rapidly as possible the scheme as a whole. It has accepted the proposal that the dams across the Barakar, tributary of the Damodar, should be at Tilaiya (near Kodarma) and at Maithon, just above its confluence with the main river.

Here I just extract the address speech of Dr.Babasaheb before the representatives of Bengal and Bihar Governments at a Conference held in Calcutta on August 23, 1944 to discuss the Preliminary Memorandum on the Damodar Valley Multipurpose Project as a Member, Labour, Irrigation and Electric Power Department in the Executive Council of the Viceroy. He said, "The project ( harnessing the waters of the Damodar River ) is a welcome one to the Government of India. It very clearly shows a fine prospect of the control of the River, a prospect of controlling floods, of securing a fine area for perennial irrigation with resultant insurance against famine and a much needed supply of power. I am sure it will be more than welcome to the Governments of Bengal and Bihar if they realize what the project will mean to them and their people. Accordingly, the Conference decided to take the next step, namely to create machinery for collecting the necessary data to draw up a multi-purpose scheme. On the part of the Government of India, I offered the fullest assistance of technical experts in carrying out this preliminary work. With regard to this Memorandum, I feel it my duty to say, and I am sure in this I am voicing your sentiments, that we are grateful to Mr. Voorduin for the preparation of this draft Memorandum and also to the ready co-operation which was offered to him by the engineering staff of the Bengal Government. Mr. Matthews, the Chairman of the Central Power Technical Board, has also given us the benefit of his advice, and at a later stage, I have no doubt, that we shall receive all the assistance from Mr. Khosla, the Chairman of the Waterways and Navigation Board. I would like to emphasize the need for a quick decision on the points relating to method and procedure. The project is no doubt primarily for the establishment of safety and the development of a multi-purpose river basin project. But it cannot be forgotten that the project is a post-war employment project. As the war is now over on all fronts, we are faced with the problems of peace one of which is to prevent unemployment which, with the sudden cancellation and the reduction of war employment and expenditure, is going to be one of the gravest problems in our domestic economy."

b) Multi-purpose Plan for Development of Orissa's Rivers:
In 1945, the plan outlined under the chairmanship of Dr.Babasaheb, it was decided to invest in the potential benefits of controlling Odisha rivers particularly Mahanadi for the multipurpose use to conserve water, serve irrigation, generating electric power etc., Mr.B.K. Gokhale, Adviser, the then H. E. to the Governor of Orissa, welcoming the plan outlined by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar to invest in the potential benefits of controlling Odisha rivers particularly Mahanadi for the multipurpose use to conserve water, serve irrigation, generating electric power etc., and said: " Orissa is perhaps the most backward part of India and no single project is likely to do more to improve the conditions of the people than the multipurpose development which we have under contemplation. He outlined the history of Orissa up to modern times. Orissa expected that the thought which had been given to planning and regional development would start her on an era of happiness and prosperity."

Dr.Babasaheb in his Presidential address at a conference held in Cuttack on November 8, 1945 between the representatives of the Central Government and the Governments of Orissa, the Central Provinces and the Eastern States, to discuss the possibilities of developing Orissa rivers, “Orissa wants to get rid of the evils of floods. Orissa wants to get rid of malaria and other to use American phraseology ' low-income ' diseases causing ill-health and corroding the stamina of her people. Orissa wants to raise the standard of living of her people and advance their prosperity by irrigation, by navigation and by producing cheap electrical power. All these purposes can fortunately be achieved by one single plan, namely to build reservoirs and store the water which is flowing in her rivers. There is another precious possession which Orissa has, namely her water wealth. The amount of water that passes through the Orissa delta is just vast. The delta comprising roughly the three districts of Cuttack, Puri and Balasore and covering an area of about 8,000 square miles is traversed by a network of distributaries arising mainly from three rivers, the Mahanadi, the Brahmani, and the Bailarani. Two more rivers the Burabalang and the Subarnarekha of relatively lesser importance, also pass through the delta. The three main rivers referred to above drain an area of 69,000 square miles above the delta, lying in the Eastern States, Central Provinces and Bihar. Of these the Mahanadi the largest of the three drains 51,000 square miles. Between them, these three rivers carry each year to the sea a discharge of about 90 million acre feet." Then he continued : "Given the resources, why has Orissa continued to be so poor, so backward and so wretched a province ? The only answer I can give is that Orissa has not found the best method of utilising her water wealth.”

On Conservation of Water:
“It is wrong to think water in excessive quantity is an evil. Water can never be so excessive as to be an evil. Man suffers more from lack of water than from excess of it. The trouble is that nature is not only niggardly in the amount: of water it gives, it is also erratic in its distribution alternating between drought and storm. But this cannot alter the fact that water is wealth. Water being the wealth of the people and its distribution being uncertain, the correct approach is not to complain against nature but to conserve water. If conservation of water is mandatory from the point of view of public good, then obviously the plan of embankments is a wrong plan. It is a mean which does not sub serve the end, namely conservation of water, and must, therefore, be abandoned.”

 

c) Bhakra Dam project:
A major initiative was taken by Dr.Babasaheb when he was member in-charge of irrigation and power during 1942-46 to take concrete steps to see that the Bhakra Dam project should be taken up on priority. An expert from the United States Bureau of Reclamation in 1944 was invited, who after examining the feasibility report recommended that the dam site was suitable for the construction of a dam with maximum reservoir level at 487.68m and suggested further exploration for foundation and abutments. This work was carried out during 1945-46, while Dr.Babasaheb was the Member of Irrigation of the Viceroy’s Council.

 

Just go through the school texts book of Tamil Nadu ( Eg: Old 10th std Matriculation, Geography book page 48 ) or NCERT ( 10th social science book, under ‘Contemporary India’ Page 26 ), you can’t find a single word about Dr.Babasaheb who played most role in these projects.

Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar laid the foundation for water resources and electricity development, the two sectors which are so crucial for the development of India when he was Member, Labour, Irrigation and Electric Power Department in the Executive Council of the Viceroy during 1942- 46. His major achievement was the establishment of two technical organizations, presently known as ‘Central Water Commission’ and ‘Central Electricity Authority’, that have contributed for the development of irrigation and power in the country. He only created the Central Technical Power Board (CTPB) on 8th November 1944. He suggested interlinking of major south Indian rivers.



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