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Over 100 yrs later, this British-built power plant still works

DEHRADUN: Located 22km away from the state capital, Galogi hydel power station was among the earliest hydropower plants commissioned by the British in 1907. Three more plants were commissioned at the same time at Chamba in Himachal Pradesh, Darjeeling in West Bengal and Mysore in Karnataka. The one in Uttarakhand, though, is the only one still functional.

The foundation stone of the plant was laid on October 4, 1907 by H W Reynolds, the then commissioner of Meerut. Six hundred labourers were employed to carry out the construction work at a cost of Rs 7.5 lakhs.

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Building materials were transported on bullock carts via the Garhi-Dakra route, and later on along the Dehradun-Mussoorie motor route.

More than a century later, the red and gray building continues to be spectacular specimen of advanced masonry with the switch gears and internal machinery points carved on slates of rock. While the machinery was imported from England, the different parts were assembled on site.

“The entire assembling process was carried out in the workshop. The parts had been brought in via the sea and then transported to Dehradun in railway carriages. From there on, they were taken to the construction site on bullock carts,” said Man Mohan Mal, chairman, Mussoorie Nagar Palika.

Situated close to the Mussoorie-Dehradun highway, one has to manoeuver a series of sharp bends and steep inclines on the final 1.5km leg of the journey. A dilapidated Victorian building comes into sight as one approaches the site. Believed to be the resident officer’s bungalow, it served as the perfect spot to keep an eye on employees. The remains of a school building and employees’ residences also stand within the premises, and are now properties of the Mussoorie city board.

The project also houses the remnants of an ancient ropeway that was meant for the exclusive use of electrical engineer Colonel Bell, who visited Galogi for periodic inspections. “The ropeway was meant only for Colonel Bell who otherwise sat at office on Rajpur Road. Common men where expected to reach the plant on bullock carts or horse,” said Lalit Chandra Madhwal, son of late G N Madhwal, a former officiating assistant engineer with Mussoorie city board.

Details of communication between senior officials of power companies in England and the chairman of the Mussoorie city board stand testimony to the fact that Galogi was the first hydel power station to generate electricity and light up houses on November 9, 1912. Some of these records go as far back as December 19, 1912. While the other three plants have stopped functioning long back, Galogi continues to be in service, nearly 103 years later. It still lights up homes in Mussoorie’s Barlowganj and Doon valley’s Anarwala area.

The station houses two turbines of 500kw capacity and two of 1,000kw capacity. While the 500kw turbines were installed in 1907, the others were put in place in 1933. A pipeline, nearly 1.4km long, transports water all the way from Bhatta Gad in Mussoorie and is fitted with 16 thrust anchors to control the water pressure. Local lore has it that the plant once supplied electricity to the present day Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration.

The plant was operated by Mussoorie city board for 70 years and thereafter was handed over to Uttar Pradesh Electricity Board in 1976. Twenty years later, in 1996, Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited was entrusted with its responsibility. Barring two brief hiatuses during 1992-93 and 1994-95, it has constantly been in service. With time, as it became difficult to procure machine parts for maintenance, newer components have been introduced to ensure smooth functioning.

“It is a heritage for us. Even today the power station works perfectly and has generated 5.4 million units of electricity in the last financial year. It is a one of its kind power plant in India and merits much attention from all quarters for preservation,” said S N Verma, managing director, UJVNL.



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