The Damodar River is one of the most important rivers in West Bengal and Jharkhand. The river has its source close to the Chandwa village in Palamau district of Jharkhand in India. The river is famous all over the world for the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC). The length of the river is 592 km or 362 miles. The river traverses important cities like Asansol, Bokaro, and Durgapur in West Bengal and Jharkhand.

About the Damodar River

The Damodar River is one of the most important rivers in eastern India . It lies on the Chota Nagpur Plateau in the state of Jharkhand in India. The river runs according to an easterly itinerary for a stretch of around 592 km, traversing Jharkhand and West Bengal to the estuary of the Hooghly River.

In a number of local dialects of Jharkhand, the Damodar River is known as Damuda. The word damu stands for holy and da signifies water. Previously, the Damodar ran through West Bengal on a straight west to east itinerary and met the River Hooghly close to Kalna. Nevertheless, it has shifted its itinerary. In its lower plains, the larger portion of the water is poured into the Mundeswari River, which fuses with other streams and ultimately the largest part of the Damodar waters pours into the Rupnarayan River. The rest of the volume of water runs through what is named as Damodar into the Hooghly River, towards the south of Kolkata.

Tributaries of Damodar

The tributaries and subtributaries of the Damodar include the following:

  • Konar
  • Barakar
  • Haharo
  • Bokaro
  • Ghari
  • Jamunia
  • Khadia
  • Guaia
  • Bhera
The biggest tributary of the Damodar River is the Barakar. The source of Barakar is located in the vicinity of Padma in Hazaribagh district. Subsequently, the river runs through Jharkhand prior to joining the Damodar close to Dishergarh in West Bengal. The Barakar and the Damodar get the Chota Nagpur flat terrain divided into three parts. The rivers flow through mountainous regions with enormous might, overwhelming anything that comes in their way. The Barakar destroyed two bridges close to Barhi on the Grand Trunk Road in Hazaribagh district and they are the huge rock bridge in 1913 and the succeeding iron bridge in 1946.

Why Damodar was earlier known as the River of Sorrows?

The average yearly precipitation on the Chota Nagpur terrain is approximately 1400 mm, and nearly the whole amount of it takes place in the monsoon season, between June and August. The enormous quantity of water that runs through the Damodar River and its tributaries at the time of the monsoons was mighty and the flow was quite vehement in the higher basinsof the plateau. However, in the lower basins, the river flooded its banks and inundated other big localities nearby.

Previously, the River had been called as the River of Sorrows. The simple reason is that the Damodar inundated different localities and urban settlements in Burdwan, Hooghly, Midnapur, and Howrah districts. On limited occasions, the floods do carry negative consequences to the lives of the inhabitants of the lower Damodar basin. Nonetheless, the catastrophe it created in the past does not take place any more.

The deluges were practically a yearly custom. However, in a particular number of years, the disaster was possibly higher and Damodar has caused a number of deluges of huge intensity in the following periods (all of them have been chronicled) – 1770, 1855, 1866, 1873-74, 1875-76, 1884-85, 1891-92, 1897, 1900, 1907, 1913, 1927, 1930, 1935 and 1943. During four of these inundations (1770, 1855, 1913, and 1943), the majority of Burdwan town was deluged.

Maharaja Kirti Chand of Burdwan signed a contract with the East India Company in 1789 in which the Maharaja was directed to pay an extra sum of Rs. 193,721 for the building and upkeep of riverbanks to stop deluges. Nevertheless, these were subject to a number of arguments. The Bengal Embankment Act came into existence in 1866 and 1873, passing the authorities to construct and preserve riverbanks to the administration.

The Damodar Valley

The Damodar Valley extends over Koderma, Hazaribagh, Dhanbad, Giridih, Bokaro, and Chatra districts in Jharkhand and Burdwan district in West Bengal. The Valley encompasses Ranchi, Palamau, Dumka, and Lohardaga districts in Jharkhand and Bankura, Howrah, and Purulia districts in West Bengal in part with a command area covering 24,235 km².

The Damodar Valley is home to huge resources of mica and coal. The region is an extremely thriving industrial area. On several occasions, the Damodar Valley is denoted as the Ruhr of India due to its resemblances with the industrial and excavation belt of Ruhr in Germany.

A number of dams have been constructed on the Damodar River along with many hydroelectric power plants. Recently, the Damodar has become one of the most contaminated rivers of India , with excavation refuses, chemical substances, and poisonous wastes running into the river from industries and excavation sites situated in the basin. Initiatives are being taken to lower the extent of contamination in the river.

The Damodar Valley is situated in the Chota Nagpur terrain of the Jharkhand state. The basin also stretches to certain areas of West Bengal. The basin has got its name from the Damodar River, which springs from the Chota Nagpur terrain. The valley is one of the most developed industrial zones in India.

The Damodar Valley is home to three state-of-the-art steel manufacturing plants and they are Burnpur, Bokaro, and Durgapur. All these plants belong to Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL). In addition, there are other manufacturing plants in the basin.

The Damodar Valley is home to a range of minerals, which includes extensive resources of coal and refractory substances. The biggest (nearly the exclusive) reserves of coking coal in India are discovered in the Jharia coalmines in the Damodar Valley. The basin also produces 60% of medium grade coal in India. Coal India Limited manages the valley to a significant extent. A slew of dams have been constructed in the valley to create hydroelectric power.

The Damodar Valley is known as “the Ruhr of India”.

Damodar Valley Corporation, commonly known as DVC, was incorporated on July 7, 1948 by an Act of the Constituent Assembly of India (Act No. XIV of 1948). It was the oldest versatile river basin project of sovereign India. Damodar Valley Corporation has been planned like the Tennessee Valley Authority of the USA.

In the beginning, the stress of the Damodar Valley Corporation was on water supply, deluge management, production, transmission, and supply of electricity, preservation of ecological balance, conversion of cultivated land into forest, and generation of employment for the financial welfare of the inhabitants living in and around localities served by the Damodar Valley Corporation projects. Nevertheless, throughout the last one or two decades, generation of electricity has become the top priority. The DVC also has some other goals that are integrated into the key responsibility of the company. All the dams in the Damodar basin have a capability to control maximum inundation level of 250,000 to 650,000 ft3/s. The Damodar Valley Corporation has a generated irrigation capacity of 3640 km2.

The first dam on the Damodar was constructed on the Barakar River at Tilaiya. The Barakar is the principal tributary of the Damodar River. The dam started operating in 1953. The second dam was constructed over the Konar River, one more tributary of the Damodar River at Konar. The dam started operating in 1955. Two dams were constructed over the Damodar and Barakar rivers at Panchet in 1959 and Maithon in 1957. Both the dams are around 8 km upstream of the meeting point of the streams. These four important dams are regulated by DVC. On the downstream of the four dams, Durgapur Barrage was built at Durgapur over the Damodar River in 1955. The head regulators for channels on both sides were installed for supplying an all-encompassing system of distributaries and channels. The Bihar Government (prior to creation of the Jharkhand state) built the Tenughat Dam in 1978, over the Damodar River beyond the authority of the Damodar Valley Corporation. The government also is planning to build a dam over the Barakar River at Belpahari in the state of Jharkhand.

Present Scenario

At present, the Damodar is the most contaminated river in India, due to the various industries that have mushroomed on its riverbanks, which are good resources of minerals. There are a number of coal-oriented industries that are scattered over the Damodar basin. Majority of them are government-owned coke oven plants; coal washeries, important iron and steel plants in India; glass, zinc, and cement plants; and thermal power plants. The contamination was a result of excessive excavation, oil, fly ash, poisonous metals, as well as coal dust. Defective excavation operations, outmoded processing activities, and deficiency of right upkeep were intensified by insufficient pollution check measures, and a state pollution control board that was ineffective. The inhabitants residing in the valley were gradually being poisoned due to the fact that Damodar and its tributaries were the only source of drinking water for majority of inhabitants residing in the locality. 10 years after it evaluated the circumstances of the Damodar, Down To Earth went to the river valley once more - to notice no major variation in the condition of the river.

Last Updated on March 13, 2020