Bhakra Dam on terrorists' hit-list

Chandigarh/Nangal, July 16 (IANS) The 225-metre high Bhakra Dam is high on the latest hit-list of Pakistan-based terrorist outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), specific intelligence reports have said.

The Intelligence Bureau (IB), in its latest report to various security agencies, including the Himachal and Punjab Police, has said that Pakistan-based terror outfits were specifically training their cadres in cliff-climbing, swimming across water channels and handling explosives with the intention to attack the dam, located near the border between Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

'A number of intelligence inputs indicate that the Bhakra Dam is one of the most preferred targets of Pak-based terrorist organisations. Reportedly, the LeT has also been training its cadres on aspects like cliff-climbing, swimming across water channels and handling of explosives with the intention to target major dams in India, particularly those located in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh,' the IB report, a copy of which is with IANS, said.

'Recently, Pak-based terrorist outfits like the JuD/LeT have been raising the emotive issue of water sharing between India and Pakistan and allege that India has been appropriating major share of water from rivers flowing into Pakistan by constructing various dams. The Bhakra Dam figures prominently on their target list due to its economic importance and potential for large-scale damage on the downstream,' the report has warned.

'Bhakra Dam has high propaganda value and any attack (on it) would attract immediate media attention,' the report pointed out, saying that the dam had acquired 'iconic status'.

The report said the Bhakra Dam, India's first and biggest hydro-electric project which was described by former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru as the 'temple of resurgent India'. Located about 130 km from here on river Sutlej, it is 15 km from Nangal town of Punjab. The dam can be reached by road from Nangal and the Naina Devi temple side in Himachal Pradesh.

The IB said that security measures and equipment at the Bhakra Dam were currently grossly inadequate. It said that the dam's security was being handled by multiple agencies 'leading to confusion and dilution of responsibility. There should be a single agency responsible for security of the entire project'.

The security of the landmark dam is being looked after by central para-military forces and aided by the Himachal and Punjab Police.

The report has stated that the security equipment and gadgets like walkie-talkie sets were inadequate and outdated. The check barriers on access roads to the dam are manually operated and not equipped to handle any forced entry.

'The dam also needs to be secured from underwater threat. Sensors, sonars and underwater cameras may be considered for the purpose,' the report said, adding that divers should periodically check underwater for any unwanted activity.

While suggesting greater manpower and technology need at the dam immediately, the IB report has even suggested more watch-towers, cameras for all areas and speedboats for security personnel to ward off any threat.

Work on the dam had started just after India's independence in 1947 and was completed in 1963.

The nearly 90-km long reservoir, Gobind Sagar, created by the dam can hold over 9,300 million cubic metres of water. This is enough to flood major parts of north India, including Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi.

(Jaideep sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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