According to the CWC(Center Water Commission), India has over 5,200 major dams, but not all of them are built equally. In fact, we can categorize and classify these dams based on a variety of factors and variables. such as how they’re made and what they’re used for. So, here’s a list of the most common types of dams in India that you probably didn’t know existed.

Embankment Dams

Tehri Dam is India’s largest embankment dam. These dams are constructed from readily available natural materials such as soil, sand, clay, or rock. These materials are not mixed with concrete or any other binding agent.

Because mixing and compacting the materials requires heavy machinery, these dams are frequently equipment-intensive rather than labor-intensive.

There are two types of embankment dams: earth-filled dams, and rock-filled dams. This type of dam can be found all over India. The Tehri dam, built on the Bhagirathi river, is a prime example. It is India’s largest rock and earth-fill embankment dam. It measures 1,886 feet long and 855 feet tall.

Storage Dams

Indira Sagar Dam is India’s largest storage dam. These dams are built with a single purpose in mind. This is done in order to store excess water during the monsoon season.

These dams are also used to supply water to irrigation facilities, provide drinking water, and even improve habitat for fish and wildlife in the surrounding area. Every dam qualifies as a storage dam because it has some capacity for storing water.

Storage Dams
Indira Sagar dam is the largest Storage dam in India.

The Indira Sagar Dam is India’s largest storage dam. This dam, built on the Narmada river, can hold 12.22 billion cubic meters of water. A town of 22,000 people and 100 villages are said to have been displaced just to build the dam.

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Concrete Dams

The Sardar Sarovar Dam is India’s largest concrete dam. Because concrete is stronger than other materials, it is used to construct the majority of modern mega-dams. Dams constructed of concrete and cement mixtures do not fail unexpectedly, and their failure can be predicted well in advance. 

Sardar-Sarovar-Dam
Sardar Sarovar Dam is the largest concrete dam in India.

These dams are also very cost-effective because their maintenance costs are lower than those of other dams. A dam is classified as a concrete dam based on how it is built. As a result, you can include other types of dams in this category.

The Sardar Sarovar Dam, built on the Narmada River, is India’s largest concrete dam. It’s also known as Gujarat’s Lifeline. This is the world’s second-largest dam in terms of volume and size, with a spillway discharge capacity of 20.7 lakh cumecs.

Diversion Dams

The Kallani Dam is a historic diversion dam in India. These dams are built to divert all or a portion of a river’s flow away from its natural course. Diversion dams typically do not store or hold water in a reservoir. Instead, they artificially direct the flow of water in other predetermined directions.

Kallanai Dam – Tamil Nadu
Kallani dam is an ancient Diversion dam in India.

Diverting a river’s water flow in a different direction than its natural course has advantages. For instance, restoring drought-prone land by providing irrigation water, generating hydro-powered electricity, or making drinking water more accessible.

Kallani Dam is an ancient dam that falls under the type of diversion dam. It is also referred to as the Grand Anicut. It was constructed between 100 BC and 100 AD during the Chola dynasty, making it the world’s fourth oldest water regulator. The dam was built to divert water from the Kaveri river to the delta district for irrigation.

Detention Dams

Hirakud Dam is India’s longest detention dam. These dams are specifically designed to combat flooding by capturing surplus river water from overflowing rivers. In flood-prone locations, detention dams are very common. These dams collect flood water and redirect it to multiple locations to prevent overflowing.

Hirakud Dam – Odisha
Hirakud dam is the longest Detention dam in India.

No dam serves a single purpose. This type of dam is no exception. In addition to managing floods, detention dams are used to store water for irrigation or fishing. The stored water is normally released gradually by these dams.

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Hirakud Dam, built on the Mahanadi River, is India’s longest detention dam. It is 4.8 kilometers long in total. It was built in 1936, following a disastrous flood in the state of Orisha.

Rockfill Dams

Tehri Dam is an excellent example of an Indian rockfill dam. This type of Rockfill dams are typically constructed from dumped and crushed rock. Therefore, these dams are excellent for situations where sufficient rocks can be found locally. These dams are appropriate for areas where concrete dams cannot be built due to a lack of a solid base.

Tehri dam is a great example of rockfill dams in India.

Furthermore, rockfill dams can be built using low-skilled labor. Due to their superior strength, these dams can be exceedingly tall. The Tehri dam in Uttarakhand, built on the Bhagirathi river, is an excellent example of a rock-filled dam.

It is included in the list of India’s highest dams. It stands 855 feet tall and 1,886 feet wide. The dam is used today to store a reservoir for agriculture and drinking water, as well as to generate 1,000 megawatts of hydro-powered electricity.

Arch Dams

Arch dams are curved-shaped concrete dams. These dams are built in areas where river valleys form. These dams’ curved, rounded shapes help them withstand the immense water pressure. These dams are generally made of concrete and are thinner than other types of dams.

Idukki dam is a great example of Arch dam in India.

Cantilever movement transfers the balance of the water load to the foundation in their U-shaped construction. These dams, however, require massive foundations on both sides of the “U” curve in order to resist the force.

The Idukki dam in India is an excellent example of an arch dam. It is located in a narrow ravine between two granite hills across the Periyar river. This dam, which has a double-curvature arch, is located in Kerala, India. The dam serves as a reservoir for a 780-megawatt hydroelectric power facility owned by the Kerala State Electricity Board.

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Gravity Dams

A gravity dam is a type of dam that is designed to hold back water by relying solely on the weight and strength of the materials used in its construction. To counteract the horizontal pressure of water pushing against it, the dam leverages the resistance of the formed material against the base.

Bhakra-Nangal-Dam – Himachal-Pradesh
Bhakra dam is a great example of concrete gravity dam in India.

To sustain the immense water pressure, this dam requires a strong rock base. Although concrete and cement are utilized as binding agents to boost the structure’s bearing strength.

In India, the Bhakra Dam is an excellent example of a concrete gravity dam. It’s located in Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh, on the Sutlej River. This gravity dam is India’s third largest reservoir. In terms of water storage capacity, the dam has a capacity of 9.34 billion cubic meters.

Masonry Dams

These dams are constructed using masonry of bricks and stone blocks, as well as mortar to connect the stones. When compared to other dams, these dams often have a large and wide foundation. Masonry dams are directly classified as gravity dams or arch-gravity dams.

Nagarjuna-Sagar-Dam in Andhra-Pradesh
Nagarjuna Sagar Dam is the largest masonry dam in India.

The Nagarjuna Sagar Dam in Andhra Pradesh is the world’s largest masonry dam. The dam was built on the Krishna River. The dam has a storage capacity of 11.47 billion cubic meters of water. Because of its scenic beauty and religious significance, the dam has become one of India’s most popular tourist destinations.