PUCL Bulletin, September 2004

An accident at Tehri Dam in Uttaranchal

A team of the Uttarakhand PUCL visited the Tehri Dam to assess the severity of the accident that took place in one of its tunnels on the night of August 2, 2004. The team consisted of Rajendra Dhasmana, President Uttarakhand PUCL; Chitranjan Singh, Senior Vice President, UP PUCL; Kamla Pant (Ms), member of the Uttarakhand PUCL Executive; and Prabha Raturi (Ms), local representative.

The foremost conclusion of the team was that there should be an investigation by the CBI to find out all the facts. It appeared to the team that there is a wide-ranging effort to suppress some facts in which there is the involvement of the State Government, Tehri Hydro Development Corporation, and Jai Prakash Associates.

The team went into T3, the one kilometre long tunnel, and also visited the place where too heavy platforms of the vertical shaft had fallen. After talking with the officials of the construction company, Jai Prakash Associates, the injured persons, and the citizens of new Tehri, the team strongly suspected that some facts were being suppressed.

The THDC, as always, worked on its own whims. The Supreme Court had directed that Tunnel 1 and Tunnel 2 should be closed only when the rehabilitation work was completed. Inspite of this the company decided five to six months ago and closed tunnel 1. About three years ago Tunnel 3 and Tunnel 4 were closed so that the people living in the old Tehri town may migrate from this submergence area. The officials of the THDC believed that the work of lining and grouting of the inside of the tunnel should be completed at a fast space so that other work may proceed. But this work was started only about ten months ago and is still going on.

Lining and grouting work in tunnel 3 on the floor area has been started recently. At the dam end of this tunnel a vertical shaft is being constructed which can be used for carrying the surplus water of the lake into the river. If the surplus rainwater is allowed through the dam wall, it can take with it the earthen film that can damage the wall, which consist of Rockfil. To prevent this the surplus water will be diverted to this shaft ten meters below the total height of the wall. Work on this shaft is in progress workers were engaged in their work on to massive platforms. There were 58 persons on the upper platform and 18 on the lower one. There were another 11 persons working at the lower end of the tunnel i.e. total 87 in all.

The team was told that heavy rocks and earth fell on the upper platform and one part of it was damaged and became suspended. When the platform became unsteady, the 58 workers withdrew into a corner. Within seconds this suspended portion of the platform fell on the platform below where 18 persons were working who were crushed in the debris. This lower platform slipped downwards because of the extra load and fell on the surface of the tunnel crushing the 11 persons working at the lower end of the shaft. The figure of the dead that is being given out is 18 + 11. The day of the team visit being a Sunday, no official of the THDC was available. But the vice-president of Jayaprakash Associates, Shri Jag Mohan; a senior officer Col. J.K. Singh; and safety officer, Y.R. Sharma were available. These officers sent us to the site of the accident and were very helpful. They gave us the figure of 29 dead. The District Magistrate of New Tehri was busy in looking after the Lt. Governor of Pondicherry and till late at night did not find time to meet us.
We talked to four injured workers in the THDC Hospital, Sankar and Trinath from Orissa, Ranga Sharma from Jharkhand, and Sadhu Prasad from Sultanpur, UP. These people were in their mid twenties and had injuries on the foot and back. Three of their colleagues, we were told, were in Jolly Grant Hospital and were in a serious condition.

Information about this accident was not given to their families either by the Government, or the THDC, or Jayaprakash Associates, or the contractor. These people have not received any compensation. These injured persons told us that there were 42 to 45 persons working right below the shaft. Seven of these came out injured. It can be easily concluded that about 33 to 38 other workers must be buried under the platform. This brings the figure of the dead between 62 and 67. There were 109 labourers working in the evening shift. No details are available for the rest of these 109.

Newspaper reports are saying that the work on the tunnel and the shaft will remain suspended till the enquiry is complete. The enquiry ordered by the central Government had started and was to be completed on August 10 but on August 8 when the team was there, work was in full swing at both the places


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