Largest Indian Dam Based On Reservoir Capacity by Volume

Indira Sagar Dam builds on the Narmada River in Khandwa district of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has the largest reservoir capacity- 98,90,701 acre-feet by volume in India. It is a multipurpose project of Madhya Pradesh irrigating a land of 2.65 lakh hectares in the districts of Khandwa, Khargone, and Badwani in Madhya Pradesh as well as drought-affected districts of Bhandara and Chandrapur in the state of Maharashtra apart from generating electrical power up to 1000 MW.

Indira Sagar Project (ISP) supports a number of downstream projects on the Narmada basin; three of the main downstream projects are- Omkareshwar, Maheshwar and Sardar Sarovar Project. The project witnessed huge resettlement and rehabilitation during its construction. The construction started in 1992 and completed in 2005; the Indira Sagar Dam was then the biggest in terms of reservoir capacity by volume and has continued its legacy till today.

Location of Indira Sagar Dam

Narmada River originates at Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh and flows through the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra before draining into the Arabian Sea. Indira Sagar Dam is located on the Narmada in Punasa village 10 kilometers from Mundi, a city in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh.

The dam is 195 km from Bhopal – the capital of Madhya Pradesh, 125 km from Indore and 65 km from the Khandwa district headquarters. The backwaters of the dam are surrounded by beautiful and pristine landscapes and are a major holiday tourist attraction for nearby cities. The backwater also hosts Hanumantiya Island developed by the state government as a measure to promote tourism.

History and Cost

The foundation stone for the dam was laid on 23rd October 1984 by the then Prime Minister of India Smt. Indira Gandhi. The main purpose of the project was to provide irrigation and generate substantial electricity for useful purposes.

Three years after its proposal the project got the conditional clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest on conditions like compulsory afforestation and development of the cultural command area which was to be covered in the project cost. The Ministry of Environment and Forest sanctioned the project on 7th October 1987.

The total estimated cost of the project including the power components, reservoir construction, rehabilitation, and others was nearly INR 2300 crores at the time of foundation and the project was a joint venture between the State Government of Madhya Pradesh and National Hydro Power Corporation and was also partly funded by the Government of India.

The project received 230 crores in the 7th five-year plan and subsequently received a total allocation of INR 1845.94 crores in 8th and 9th five-year plans. However, the total cost of the project during its commissioning in May 2005 was INR 4355.57 crores.

Structural and Technical Details

Indira Sagar Dam is a concrete gravity dam having a maximum height of 93 meters from the foundation and a length of 653 meters on top. A concrete gravity dam is built by a concrete or stone masonry to hold back water by balancing the horizontal pressure of water against the weight of the material.


The dam has a diversion tunnel 688 meters long and 8 meters high and has got 20 radial gates of size 20X18 mtrs. The top of the dam has a width of 7.62 meters. The dam houses a powerhouse with a total installed capacity of 1000 MW. The powerhouse has 8 units of Francis Turbines with each having an individual capacity of 125 MW.

The dam has the largest reservoir in India with a total capacity of 98,90,701 acre-feet and an active capacity of 79, 04, 454-acre feet.

Down Stream Projects

Indira Sagar Project (ISP) with its largest reservoir is the mother project of three other downstream projects on the Narmada which directly depend on the regulated release of water from Indira Sagar Dam; so are its beneficiaries.  Brief details of the projects are provided below-

1) Omkareshwar Project

Omkareshwar Project is a multipurpose project built on the Narmada at the religious town of Omkareshwar, around 80 km from Indore. The dam serves the purpose of an annual irrigation of 2,83,324 hectares of land and generation of hydropower with an installed capacity of 520 MW.

The project also provides drinking water to Khandwa, Khargaon, Barwani and Dhar districts of Madhya Pradesh. The Omkareshwar project was commissioned in November 2007.

2) Maheshwar Project          

The project was launched by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) in 1975 primarily to provide electricity to the industries. The Power Plant has a total installed capacity of 400 MW.

In 1993 the concession of the project was awarded to S. Kumar a textile magnate making the Maheshwar Project a first privately funded hydroelectric project in India.

3) Sardar Sarovar Dam

Sardar Sarovar Dam is built on the Narmada near Navagam in Gujarat. The dam supplies electricity and water to the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.

The powerhouse has a total installed capacity of 1450 MW and irrigates around 17,920 sq km of land.


Rehabilitation and Resettlement

During the construction of the Indira Sagar Dam, 249 villages were fully or partially submerged in water resulting in the relocation of over 20000 people and rehabilitating nearly 100 villages.

The districts affected by the construction were- Harda, Hosangabad, and Devas in Madhya Pradesh. The dam displaced near around 80000 people in Madhya Pradesh; it also submerged nearly 40000 hectares of forest.

The per acre compensation fixed by the government was very low than the market price of that time. The government compensation for irrigated and unirrigated land was INR 60000 and INR 40000 respectively. Ironically the market price at that time was between INR 80000 to 100000.

Reportedly around 32 villages did not get any compensation at all and the project witnessed a series of protests by local villagers organized under social activists and local leaders.

Advantages of Indira Sagar Dam

The Indira Sagar Dam is a major source of electricity for the towns of Khandwa and Khargaon, with an installed capacity of 1000 MW it generates annual energy of 2698 million units, 1850 million units, and 1515 million units; in stage I, II and III respectively.

The dam also irrigates a land of 2.65 lakh hectares and has a cultural command area of 1.22 lakh hectares. Besides, it is the mother project for all the downstream projects on the Narmada basin.

Tourism and Water Sports

Located into the backwater of Indira Sagar Dam reservoir there is an Island called Hanumantiya Island which got its name from a nearby village having the same name. Due to the abundance of water in the reservoir, the Government of Madhya Pradesh developed this island as a water tourism destination.

The island is developed and promoted by the Madhya Pradesh Tourism and Development Corporation and hosts Hanumantiya Jal Mahotsav during the moths of October to January each year. During the Mahotsava the island is storming with tourists and buzzing with activities like- Water Jet Ski, Night Camping and much more.

The island is well connected with roads and has some decent hotels and restaurants nearby.

FAQs on Indira Sagar Dam

Q1) Where is Indira Sagar Dam located?

Ans- Indira Sagar Dam is located in Punasa village in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh.

Q2) On which river is the Indira Sagar Dam built?

Ans- The dam is built across the river Narmada.

Q3) Who laid the foundation stone for the dam and when?

Ans- The foundation of the dam was laid by the then Prime Minister of India Smt. Indira Gandhi on 23rd October 1984.

Q4)  How far is the dam from Bhopal and Indore?

Ans- The dam is 195 km from Bhopal and 125 km from Indore.

Q5) When was the project sanctioned by the Ministry of Environment and Forests?

Ans- The project got the sanction of MoEF on 7th October 1987.

Q6) When was the dam fully commissioned?

Ans- The dam was completely commissioned in May 2005.

Q7) What was the total cost of the project?

Ans- Total cost at the time of commissioning was INR 4355.57 crores.

Q8) What is the maximum height of the dam?

Ans- The maximum height of the dam is 93 meters from the deepest foundation.

Q9) How much is the length of the main section of the dam?

Ans- The length of the main section of the dam is 653 meters.

Q10) What is the total reservoir capacity of the dam?

Ans- Total reservoir capacity of the Indira Sagar Dam is 98,90,701 acre-feet.

Q11) What is an active reservoir capacity of the dam?

Ans- Active reservoir capacity of the Indira Sagar dam is 79,04,454 acre-feet.

Q12)  How much is the total installed capacity of the dam?

Ans- The Powerhouse of the dam has a total installed capacity of 1000 MW (8×125 MW).

Q13) How much land does the dam irrigate?

Ans- The dam irrigates a total land of 2.65 lakh hectares.

Q14) Name a few important downstream projects of the Narmada basin.

Ans- 1. Omkareshwar Project, 2.Maheshwar Project, and 3.Sardar Sarovar Project.

Q15) How many villages were partially/fully submerged during its construction?

Ans- 69 villages were fully submerged and around 180 villages were partially submerged.

Q16) How much area of forest had to be submerged for the dam’s construction?

Ans- Around 40000 hectares of forest was submerged for the construction of the dam.

Q17) How many people were displaced during the dam’s construction?

Ans- Around 30000 families and 80000 people were displaced by the construction of the dam.

Q18) How much is the Culturable Command Area of the dam?

Ans- The dam has a Culturable Command Area of 1.23 lakh Hectares.

Q19) How many spill gates does the Indira Sagar Dam have?

Ans- Indira Sagar Dam has 20 radial gates.

Q20) Which Island is developed as a water tourism destination by Madhya Pradesh Tourism and Development Corporation?

Ans- Hanumantiya Island located in the backwater of the Indira Sagar dam.

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