Multipurpose River Valley Projects in India

Multipurpose river valley projects are water resources projects planned for various purposes like irrigation, hydropower generation, water supply for drinking and industrial purposes, flood control, and navigation. These are projects serving more than one purpose, playing a major role in the economy and development of a country. It is commonly observed that the majority of the multipurpose river projects in India are a combination of irrigation and hydropower. 

Why is the topic, ‘Multipurpose River Valley Projects in India’ in the News?

In recent times, the state-owned Hydroelectric Power giant NHPC has incorporated a joint venture firm Ratle Hydroelectric Power Corporation Ltd for implementing the 850 MW Ratle project in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

This is important from the perspective of the UPSC civil service examination on many fronts such as river linking, issues, development perspective and economy.

This article covers various dimensions, the utility purpose of the projects and other important aspects, keeping in mind the demands of the UPSC IAS Exam.

What are some multipurpose river valley projects in India?

Bhakra Nangal Project

  • It is a joint venture of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan.
  • It is India’s biggest multipurpose river valley project 
  • It consists of a straight gravity dam, 518 meters long, 226 meters high across the Sutlej at Bhakra.
  • The canal system of the project is now irrigating 14.8 lakh hectares.
  • It generates 1204 MW of electricity.

Chambal Project 

  • The Chambal project was jointly executed by Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
  • In the 1st stage, the Gandhi Sagar Dam, its 115 MW power station and the Kota barrage were completed.
  • The Rana Pratap Sagar dam with a powerhouse of 172 MW capacity was constructed in the 2nd stage.
  • The 3rd stage comprises the construction of the Jawahar Sagar dam and the 99 MW power station.
  • With the completion of all the stages, the project will generate 386MW of power.

Koyna Project

  • The Koyna project, run by the Maharashtra State Electricity Board, is the largest completed hydroelectric power plant in the country.
  • It has a total generation capacity of 1,960 MW.
  • It is a complex project with four dams, including the largest dam on the Koyna river.
  • It comprises the construction of a 208 ft. high dam.

Damodar Valley Project

  • This project was conceived for the unified development of irrigation, flood control, and power generation in West Bengal and Jharkhand.
  • It is one of the earliest multipurpose projects in India, established in 1948, administered by the Damodar Valley Corporation.
  • The irrigation potential of the project is about 5.51 lakh hectares; its installed power generation capacity is 1181 MW.
  • It is designed on the lines of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the USA.

Farakka Barrage

  • It consists of a barrage across the Ganga at Farakka, another barrage at Jangipur across the Bhagirathi.
  • It includes a 39 km long feeder canal taking off from the right bank of the Ganga, at Farakka, tailing into the Bhagirathi below the Jangipur Barrage.
  • Road-cum-rail bridge over the Farakka barrage is a major connectivity line.
  • The basic Aim of the Farakka barrage is to preserve and maintain the Calcutta port.
  • It intends to improve the navigability of the Hooghly river.
  • Farakka also utilizes a large volume of water from its stored capacity to clear the silt deposits at Calcutta port.

Hirakud Dam

  • It is built on the River Mahanadi at Hirakud, in Sambalpur, Odisha.
  • With a length of 4801.2 meters, it is the longest dam in the world.
  • Its main purpose was irrigation and flood control in downstream Mahanadi, the coastal plains of Odisha.
  • Further, Power generation is also one of the objectives of this multipurpose project,  with an installed power generation capacity of  27.2MW.

Indira Gandhi Canal

  • It is one of the biggest irrigation projects in the world.
  • It was started in 1958 as the Rajasthan Canal.
  • It provides irrigation facilities to the North-Western region of Rajasthan, a part of the Thar Desert.
  • The project, which uses water from the Pong dam, consists of a 215 km long Rajasthan feeder canal.
  • It also consists of a 445 km long Rajasthan main canal, spread entirely in Rajasthan.
  • The project aims to irrigate about 14.5 lakh hectares.

Nagarjuna Sagar Project 

  • It is the undertaking of the government of A.P. for utilizing the water of the Krishna river.
  • It was inaugurated on Aug 4 1967.
  • It is situated in Nalgonda District.
  • It is 1450 meters long, a 92 meters high dam.
  • The project will ultimately irrigate about 8.95 lakh hectares.

Rihand Project

  • This project comprises the construction of a concrete gravity dam across the Sonebhadra, Uttar Pradesh.
  • It consists of a powerhouse at Pipri and necessary transmission infrastructures.
  • It has an installed capacity of 300 MW.

Ranjit Sagar Dam

  • The dam is a part of the hydroelectricity project of the state Government of Punjab and was completed in 2001. 
  • The Ranjit Sagar Dam is also known as the Thien Dam and was constructed on the river Ravi. 
  • Ranjit Sagar Dam (Thein Dam) Project is one of the largest multipurpose river valley projects on the river Ravi about 24 KMs upstream of Madhopur HeadWorks. 
  • The Ranjit Sagar Dam is located in a very serene and idyllic location in Pathankot.
  • Generation capacity is 600MW.

Tungabhadra Hydroelectric Project

  • It is a multipurpose dam for irrigation, electricity generation, and flood control.
  • It is built across the Tungabhadra River in the Ballari district of Karnataka.
  • Tunga Bhadra reservoir has a storage capacity of 101 TMC with a catchment area spreading to 28000 square km. 
  • It is 49.5 meters in height, with an installed power generation capacity of 72MW.

Kakrapara Project

  • It is on the river Tapti, 80 km upstream of Surat.
  • It is being built by the Gujarat government
  • It is 621 meters long and has a 14 meters high weir.
  • It is situated in Kakrapara in Surat district and was completed in 1963.

What are the challenges in the projects at present?

  • Challenges in flood control due to the change in nature of rainfall over catchment areas.
  • Issues of shrinking storage capacity in the reservoir during the flood.
  • Issues of inter catchment, interstate coordination on the release of water and control of flow, causing a management crisis.
  • Capacity to augment the power generation.
  • Need to maintain a steady flow and downstream irrigation during dry periods owing to erratic rainfall patterns.


Multi-purpose river projects in India have served many purposes. The question of development, environment and displacement has yielded results across countries, ensuring irrigation, power generation. Projects like Damodar Valley Corporation, Bhakra Nangal, Hirakud and the more recent Rajasthan Canal have done more good than harm to the environment and contributed to the growth of infrastructure.

This article is relevant for the sections of the Geography part of the UPSC Syllabus prescribed for the Preliminary and Main Stages of Civil Services Exam.

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