Bhakra Nangal Dam

The second tallest dam in India (after Tehri dam), the Bhakra Nangal dam is one of the earliest and most important multipurpose river valley development projects, undertaken after India’s independence. It’s constructed on the river Sutlej. Bhakra and Nangal are in fact two different dams, but many times the name Bhakra Nangal dam is used together. Bhakra dam is situated in upstream of Bhakra village in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh, while the Nangal dam is situated at Nangal, Punjab, about 13 km downstream of the Bhakra dam

History of the dam

In 1908, Sir Louis Dane, the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, suggested a reservoir to be built on Sutlej by building dams for storage and power development. However, due to prohibitive costs, the project was shelved. Over the decade’s many other reports were submitted and studied, and finally, in 1948 the Bhakra Nangal project actually took shape with the aim of providing irrigation, power generation, and preventing floods in the Sutlej-Beas river valley.

Construction of the Bhakra Nangal dam commenced in the year 1948 and was completed in 1963. It took a workforce of 13000 workers and 300 engineers to complete the project. More than 100 people lost their lives during the construction phase. On Oct 22nd, 1963, it was dedicated to the nation by then Prime Minister Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, who called it “New Temple of a Resurgent India”. Features of Bhakra Nangal dam

With a length of 518 meters and standing tall at 226 meters, Bhakra dam is the second tallest dam in India (after Tehri Dam, which is 260 m tall) and one of the highest gravity dams in the world.

Just to give a perspective to its height, the dam is three times taller than the Qutub Minar. The dam’s reservoir is named ‘Gobind Sagar’, in honor of the tenth Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh.

The 166 km² reservoirs can hold 9 billion cubic meters of water, making it the third-largest reservoir in India after Indira Sagar and Nagarjuna Sagar reservoirs. The dam has 4 flood control gates, with a maximum design discharge at 1997300 cubic feet per second. Its cost of construction was 2 billion INR, which in today’s currency valuation would be around 80 billion INR. In contrast, the Nangal dam is only 29 meters high and acts as a barrage dam 10 km downstream of Bhakra dam.

Importance of Bhakra Nangal Dam

The reservoir of the dam, Gobind Sagar, has fishes of different species including endangered Mahseer which means fishing in this reservoir is a common activity, hence, you’ll spot local fishermen practicing fishing in Gobind Sagar. This dam holds excess water during the monsoon and provides a regulated release during the year. It also prevents damage due to monsoon floods. Another important feature that makes this dam relevant is that it provides irrigation to 10 million acres of fields in Haryana, Rajasthan, and Punjab. Apart from supplying water for irrigation, it plays a pivotal role in generating electricity that is supplied to different states of North India like Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, and Delhi. Bhakra dam has ten power generators with five on each side that has a capacity of 1325 MW.


Due to its humongous size and uniqueness, over the years, the Bhakra dam has also become a major attraction for tourists. However, due to security reasons, photography is totally prohibited near the dam. People visit to see the reservoir and other attractive locations like the temple of Naina Devi. They can also experience jungle safari in the nearby Gobind Sagar wildlife sanctuary. It is spread over an area of 10 hectares and is home to many reptiles and animals. The sanctuary is well connected by road from Shimla and Chandigarh.


Gobind Sagar reservoir is home to fish of various species. Commercial fishing is allowed in the reservoir, details of which can be acquired from Punjab Fisheries Department in Chandigarh.

Management of the Dam

To effectively manage the administration, maintenance, and operations of the Bhakra Nangal Project, the Bhakra Management Board was formed in 1966 and came into force on October 1, 1967. The Board members are appointed by the Government of India and by the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, and Chandigarh. On May 15, 1976, the Bhakra Management Board was renamed Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) in order to also manage the dams on the river Beas. BBMB is now responsible for the regulation and management of Bhakra Dam, Dehar Hydroelectricity Project, Pong dam, Ganguwal, and Kotla power stations.

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