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Panchet Dam, Dhanbad Overview

The Panchet Dam is located in the district of Dhanbad in Jharkhand. The last to be built out of the four multi-purpose dams that were constructed under the Damodar Valley Corporation or DVC, the Panchet Dam first opened in 1959. The dam gets its name for the nearby Panchet Hill that rises above the dam. It is a favourite tourist spot and easily accessible for day trips from Dhanbad and Asansol. Built across the Damodar River that forms a natural border between Jharkhand and West Bengal, the Panchet Dam is constructed above the confluence of the Barakar and Damodar Rivers. The northern flank of the reservoir thus falls under the Dhanbad district, and the southern bank is under the Purulia district of West Bengal.

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About DVC

The Damodar River was prone to extensive regular flooding, but the Panchet and Maithon dams have reduced the water discharge and controlled the extremity of flow. The DVC project was in fact, the first river valley project post-Independence that was an ambitious venture to construct dams, barrages and hydropower stations. The dam is a success story of the DVC project as far as controlling floods and generating hydropower is concerned. However, on the flip side, there are complaints of inadequate compensation and archaeological as well as environmental consequences. The Panchet Dam is a popular picnic spot and is often visited for its impressive built and beautiful reservoir landscapes.

History of Panchet Dam

After the disastrous floods of 1943, the Governor of Bengal formed the Damodar Flood Enquiry committee. The committee recommended undertaking a project on the lines of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the USA. A senior engineer from the TVA, W.L. Voorduin designed an initial plan to control flooding and generating power, irrigation and navigation. The DVC was formed in 1948 to manage the entire Damodar basin area, and the plan to build four dams at Tilaiya, Konar, Maithon and Panchet along with the Durgapur Barrage was finalised. The first dam was built at Tilaiya across the Barakar River in 1953, whereas Panchet Dam was the last under the DVC constructed in 1959.

Panchet Dam Architecture

The Panchet Dam is an earthen dam with a concrete spillway. The dam is 6777m long and 45m high. With the storage capacity of 170.37 million m3, the Panchet Dam catchment area equals 10961 sq km. The reservoir covers an area of 27.9 sq. Km at dead storage level and 153.38 sq. Km at the top of the gates. The average annual basin precipitation is 114 cm, and the average runoff is 4540 million cubic m. Two hydropower units, each of 40MW have been constructed for power generation.

Impact of the Dam

The Panchet Dam along with the dams under the DVC has effectively managed the flood-prone Damodar River. The 10-year recurrence interval floods have become half, but there have been quite a few environmental, archaeological and social concerns that have blotted the otherwise successful project. Thirty-four thousand acres of land across villages in Bengal and now Jharkhand were taken up for the construction of the Panchet Dam. More than 100 families were affected and relocated, as well as, many ancient temples along the catchment area were submerged. The dislocated families have been staging protests for adequate and fair compensation even after more than 50 years of the dam’s construction.

The archaeological loss was significant as well. The village of Telkupi which was the capital of the erstwhile Tilakampa Kingdom was submerged under the dam area. The village dating back to the 1st century was home to various ancient Jain Temples. These have been described as the largest and finest temples to be found in the Chutia Nagpur Circle of Bengal by J.D. Beglar in 1902. However, some temples and the Fort of the Singh Deo dynasty of Panchakot remain. Tourists can visit the ruins of the Old Terracotta temple in the Garpanchkot hills.

Environmental impact of the construction of the dam is perceived by the loss of forest and vegetation cover that led to a negative impact on the wildlife of the area. The Damodar basin area is often seen as an ecologically imbalanced region due to sediment traps in the reservoir and lack of flushing because of reduced peak discharge.

How to Reach

The Panchet Dam is easily accessible by road and lies 9 km from Chirkunda on the Grand Trunk Road. It is 54 km from Dhanbad, 20 km from Asansol and 240 km from Kolkata.
The nearest airports are Kolkata and the Ranchi (185km) airport. The nearest railway station is Kumardhubi which is 10km away from Panchet.

Activities at Panchet Dam

The Panchet Dam is an excellent picnic spot and a perfect day trip from Dhanbad and Asansol. Besides admiring the serene views of the Panchet Hill and watching the resilience of the earthen dam, there are quite a few activities that can be carried out here.

Fishing is a favourite activity with some various fishes, such as the catla, rohu, L.Calbasu and mrigal found in the reservoir.

At a drive of half an hour from Panchet Dam is the beautiful Garpanchkot at the foothills of the Panchet Hill. Home to the ruins of the temple and the historic fort, a visit to Garpanchkot is recommended while visiting Panchet Dam.

Snake Park near the dam is another popular attraction. Founded by Mr Mubarak this snake park conserves different types of venomous and non-venomous snakes that are rescued from the forests. The park is also home to some bird species.

Best time to Visit

The best time to visit the Panchet Dam is immediately after the monsoon season in end of August- September. The water level is high, and the gates are usually unlocked to allow distribution of the water. The water gushing out of the open gates is perhaps the most significant highlight of visiting the dam. Winters from October-February are also an excellent time to visit the dam because of the mild and pleasant temperatures. The summers are scorching and picnicking around the dam is not a great idea.

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