Over 100 Years old engineering heritage in shambles

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The River Jehlum draining almost whole Kashmir Valley becomes steeper with significant vertical fall along the length from Baramulla to Kaman Post. This topography is best suited for hydroelectric power projects, especially run-off-the-river type of power plants and presently three such projects are functional within this stretch of about 70 Kilometers.

On this advantageous  terrain, Mahraja Pratap singh, the monarch of Kashmir, had hired the services of   Canadian born engineer, Major Alian de Litbniere, to conceive a hydro electric project at Mohra (a hamlet at a distance of about 40 kms from Baramulla ).The project got commissioned in 1902 and became operational in 1905 during the days when ‘Reinforced Concrete Technology’ wasn’t much in practice in the valley which was accessible to the world only through  horse driven carts .The head works were constructed  of brick masonry and the uphill task of carrying water through steep terrain from Rampur (A hamlet in Boniyar) to Mohra about 10 Kms was  done by constructing a Wooden  Flume for two-thirds of the length .

This wooden flume  made it world’s unique project and Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation (JKSPDC) bagged an award on December 01 2015 in recognition of its “Pioneering work in Hydroelectric project Construction in Jammu and Kashmir” at 5th India Power Awards at New Delhi under unique project category.

To make the wooden channel leak proof, ‘Tongue and Groove Joints ‘were used in timber planks obtained from thousands of locally available deodar trees making construction of channel economical and is marvelous display of skill even today.

After arduous task of civil works in difficult terrain, this 3.75 Megawatts   power plant with a head (fall ) of 430 feet became operational in 1905 and the electricity obtained from the power plant was supplied to dredgers  at Sopore to reclaim flood hit  60000 acres of cultivable land.Out of the 3.75 Megawatts  after running dredgers at Doabgah Sopore ,the surplus electricity  was supplied to run world famous Silk factory in Srinagar.

After few decades of service, this project o was struck by ferocious flood in 1959. The project was renovated and augmented to a capacity of 9 Mega Watts just few metres upstream of the earlier location.

The operation of new electro-mechanical assembly housed in two storeyed concrete building (Power Plant ) in 1962 at new location was made possible with the technical support of Hungarian engineers. Serving the valley for almost three decades again, this ill fated project was struck again by flood in 1992 and has rendered the project out of the operation till now.

Now the wooden flume which made this project unique to bag a national award for JKSPDC is in a dilapidated condition with its rotten deodar bullies scattered on ground reflecting the administrational apathy towards the heritage engineering project.Despite many assurances from the government and preparation of DPRs ,still no icebreaking for the revival of this  project has been done .

Many experts believe that the hurdle behind the revival of the project is the release of 11.33 cumecs of water by NHPC from URI-I Barrage.

The power house has been turned into recieving station by JKPDD , housing its control room and guard room. In a shocking development , recently the mechanical components of project have been put on auction as scrap instead displaying  of those  antique Pelton turbines in museum   .The project after rival  would not only feed about 9 Megawatts of electricity to our power scarce state  but also inspire young engineers because of pioneering work in electricity generation  and in addition it will also boost tourism potential of beautiful Jehlum Valley.

Given the historic and economic importance of the Mohra Project, the higher ups in power should wake up and make sincere efforts to renovate this heritage project.A black and white photograph of Hungarian electrical  engineer Mr Lajos Kapas is still hanging on the corridor wall who died due to electric shock on 22 November 1962 in the power house as if he too is waiting for Mohra power plant to become operational again.

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