Friday, January 30, 2009

Hirakud and Heavy Engineering

I had an opportunity to visit Hirakud Dam in Sambalpur. There are a few thoughts that occurred to me.

One thought is the constant efforts of the Human being to tame nature. The Dam was built to contain floods which happen in the Mahanadi Delta. This effort is only partially successful as evident from the recent floods in 2008. We may or may not have tamed the nature but surely we are destroying it. Normally at this time in Sambalpur one should be freezing. The temperature is unbearably high at this time of the year. At this rate, one gets a feeling that all human activities including building dams will one day make the earth un-liveable.

I had a look at the powerhouse in Hirakud which produces clean electricity. The turbines, the generators, the sluice gates are huge and marvels of heavy engineering. You get to see iconic names like English Electric, MAN, Hitachi on the equipments. And missing were any Indian names. While we in the IT industry thrive on smallness of our design, the Hirakud presents a picture of everything mammoth and gigantic. IT has become synonymous with technology obliterating (in the popular perception) the existence of the other forms of engineering. While India has become a powerhouse in IT arena, we still have a long way to go in the Heavy Engineering towards becoming a world leader.

The Dam has a life of about 100 years and it is already 50 years old. As children we studied about the Hirakud and Bhakra-Nangal Dams and we thought that these are eternal structures. Hirakud has reached middle ages and perhaps will cease to exist in our life time. It is a very poignant thought that some thing as mighty as this will vanish before our eyes.

The Dam was built in eight years. Unbelievable, but it is true. This is a tribute to the spirit of newly born India that we could achieve such feat in such a small time.

There are lessons for us here. We must learn to celebrate the spirit of engineering. We must learn to co-exist with nature. We must achieve the speed at which Hirakud was built in constructing our campus. And, Build an Institution which will relevant in changing times.

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