Machchu Dam 2 near Morbi

river Machchu Flowing Quietly Through Morbi District

Machchu, also known as Machhu, is a major river that flows northward through the Morbi district in Gujarat. It originates at the Madla hills near Jasdan in Rajkot district and empties into the Little Rann of Kutch north of Morbi. Thus it crosses a total length of 130 kilometer through different districts such as Rajkot, Morbi and Kutch. To harness the river, two dams have been built at different points in Morbi district. While Machchu Dam 1 is located in the Wankara taluka, Machchu Dam 2 has been built in the Morbi taluka.

Location of Machchu Dam 2

Machchu dam is located near Jodhpur village of Morbi Taluka at a distance of 103 km from the source. Two important cities located downstream of the dam are Morbi ad Malia. Among them, Morbi is located directly on the left bank of the river at a distance of 9 km from the dam.  Malia is 46Km away from the dam and located at a distance of 1.5 Km from the bank of the river.

Catchment Area of the Dam

Machchu Dam 2 has a large catchment area covering 1928 Sq Km. The command area of the dam falls mainly on the left side of the river. The catchment area is fan-shaped. Although it consists mainly of cultivable low land a part of it is undulating. The gross holding capacity of the dam is 100.41 cubic millimeter of water while the live holding capacity is 90.73 cubic millimeter.

The purpose behind Machchu Dam 2

It is to be remembered that the area in which the dam has been built is generally dry and semi arid. Although it has sufficient rainfall during the monsoon the water could not be used because there was no scope for storing it. It flew down the river to be lost in the Little Rann of Kutch. On top of that, the water often flooded the banks and caused much destruction. Machchu Dam 2 was designed tosolve all these problems.

The main idea was to build a reservoir that was big enough to store the excess water, which flew down the river during the rainy season and was wasted. In that way, the floods, which often created much havoc, could easily be controlled. Moreover, the water so impounded could be used for irrigation purposes throughout the years. Thirdly, it could also be used to mitigate water crisis in Morbi town.

Thus the authorities aimed to prevent floods, irrigate the farmlands and solve water crisis in the nearby Morbi town at one go. It has to be admitted that the government has been successful in the endeavor to a large extent. The farmers can now cultivate their land both in the Rabi and Khariff seasons.  Thus the dam has also brought in the much needed prosperity to the area.

The Disaster of 1979

However, everything that has been invented by man has potential for danger hidden in it; dams and barrages are no exception to that. Morbi Dam 2 was breached in 1979 and the rushing water immersed most part of its command area. Morbi, located downstream at a distance of 9 Km from the dam was badly hit. It took almost three years of consistent endeavor on the part of public as well as government to come out the tragedy.

Morbi City during the Disaster of 1979

It 11th August, 1979; it had been raining constantly for few days. Suddenly at 3:30 PM, one of the mud walls of Manchu Dam 2 went down under the pressure of accumulated water. Within seconds, the adjoining area was submerged under 3.7 to 9.1 m (12 to 30 ft) of water. Morbi town went under water with half an hour. As there were few tall buildings at that time, a large number of people were simply swept away.

Reason behind the breach and rectification of the faults

The main reason behind the breach was insufficient spillway capacity of the dam. Spillway is a structure that provides controlled release of water from a dam or reservoir. At that time, the spillway capacity of Machchu Dam 2 was only 5663 m³/second; but because of heavy rainfall, the actual amount of water inflow was 16307 cubic millimeter per second; more than three times of what the dam could actually release. The mud walls of the dam could not hold so much water and breached.

When the dam was rebuilt, the spillway capacity was increased four times. It is now fixed at 21000 cubic millimeters per second. All other faults were also rectified.  Today, the dam not only provides for drinking water to a large area, but it has also helped to usher in prosperity by controlling floods and providing irrigation facility to an otherwise perched land.

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