Damodar River (দামোদর নদ) originates near Chandwa village, Palamau district, on the Chota Nagpur Plateau in the Jharkhand state in eastern India, and flows eastward for about 592 km through the states of Jharkhand and West Bengal to the estaury of the River Hooghly. It has a number of tributaries and subtributaries, such as Barakar, Konar, Bokaro, Haharo, Jamnai, Ghari, Guaia, Khadia and Bhera.
In some of the local languages of Jharkhand it is called Damuda, damu means sacred and da means water. The Damodar earlier used to flow through Bengal on a direct west to east course and join the River Hughli near Kalna. However, it has changed its course and in its lower reaches most of the water flows into the Mundeswari river, which combines with other rivers and finally most of the Damodar water flows into the Rupnarayan River. The balance water flows through what is known as Damodar into the Hughli south of Kolkata.
The Barakar is the most important tributary of the Damodar. It originates near Padma in Hazaribagh district and flows through Jharkhand before meeting the Damodar near Dishergarh in West Bengal. The Damodar and the Barakar trifurcates the Chota Nagpur plateau. The rivers pass through hilly areas with great force, sweeping away whatever lies in their path. Two bridges on the Grand Trunk Road near Barhi in Hazaribagh district were torn down by the Barakar, the great stone bridge in 1913 and the subsequent iron bridge in 1946.
Damodar River was earlier known as the River of Sorrows as it used to flood many areas of Bardhaman, Hughli, Howrah and Medinipur districts. Even now the floods sometimes affect the lower Damodar Valley but the havoc it wreaked in earlier years is now a matter of history.
The floods were virtually an annual ritual but in some years the damage was probably more and so many of the great floods of the Damodar are recorded in history – 1770, 1855, 1866, 1873-74, 1875-76, 1884-85, 1891-92, 1897, 1900, 1907, 1913, 1927, 1930, 1935 and 1943. In four of these floods (1770, 1855, 1913 and 1943) most of Bardhaman town was flooded.
In 1789 an agreement was signed between Maharaja Kirti Chand of Burdwan and the East India Company wherein the Maharaja was asked to pay an additional amount of Rs. 1,93,721 for the construction and maintenance of embankment to prevent floods. However, these ran into dispute and in 1866 and 1873, The Bengal Embankment Act was passed, transferring the powers to build and maintain embankment to the government.
So great was the deavstation every year that the floods passed into folklore, as the following Bhadu (popular folklore in the region) song testifies:
The Damodar Valley contains large reserves of coal and mica, and the area is a highly developed industrial belt. Many refer to the Damodar Valley as the Ruhr of India because of its similarities with the Ruhr mining-industrial area of Germany. The dams on the Damodar River have several hydroelectric power plants. Of late, the Damodar has become one of the most polluted rivers of India, with chemicals, mine rejects and toxic effluents flowing into the river from mines and industries located in the valley. Efforts are being made to reduce the level of pollution in the river
The Damodar Valley lies in the Chota Nagpur Plateau of the state of Jharkhand, India. It also extends to some parts of the state of West Bengal. The valley derives its name from the Damodar River, which arises from the plateau of Chota Nagpur. The Damodar Valley is one of the most industrialised parts of India. Three integrated steel plants (Bokaro, Burnpur and Durgapur) of Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) and other factories are located in the valley.
Damodar Valley contains a variety of mineral deposits, including very large deposits of coal and refractory materials. The largest (almost the only) reserves of coking coal in the country are found in the Jharia coalfields in the valley. The valley also generates 60% of India’s medium grade coal. Coal India Limited operates in the valley in a big way. Several dams have been constructed in the valley, for the generation of hydroelectric power. The valley is called “the Ruhr of India”. Damodar Valley Corporation, popularly known as DVC, came into being on July 7, 1948 by an Act of the Constituent Assembly of India (Act No. XIV of 1948) as the first multipurpose river valley project of independent India.It is modelled on the Tennessee Valley Authority of the USA.
The initial focus of the DVC were flood control, irrigation, generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, eco-conservation and afforestation, as well as job creation for the socio-economic well-being of the people residing in and around areas affected by DVC projects. However, over the past few decades, power generation has gained priority. Other objectives of the DVC, however, remain part of its primary responsibility. The dams in the valley have a capacity to moderate peak floods of 650,000 to 250,000 ft3/s. DVC has created irrigation potential of 3640 km2.
The first dam was built across the Barakar river, a tributary of the Damodar river at Tilaiya in 1953. The second one was built across the Konar river, another tributary of the Damodar river at Konar in 1955. Two dams across the rivers Barakar and Damodar were built at Maithon in 1957 and Panchet in 1959. Both the dams are some 8 km upstream of the confluence point of the rivers. These four major dams are controlled by DVC. Durgapur barrage was constructed downstream of the four dams in 1955, across the Damodar river at Durgapur in 1955, with head regulators for canals on either side for feeding an extensive system of canals and distributaries.In 1978, the Government of Bihar (that was before the formation of the state of Jharkhand) constructed the Tenughat dam across the Damodar river outside the control of DVC.It proposes to construct a dam across the Barakar river at Belpahari in Jharkhand state.