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Presented by:

GM Prasad
General Manager (Design & Engg.)
THDC India Limited, Rishikesh

 Introduction
 General Site Selection Criteria for Dams
 General Investigations for Dam Sites
 Case Study of Tehri Dam
 Investigations for Tehri Dam ( Earth & Rock Fill Dam)
 Investigations for Pipalkoti Dam (Concrete Gravity Dam).

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 Selection of suitable site for dams is a very important aspect of
planning for Hydro Electric Projects. It depends upon various
parameters viz., topography, geology / seismicity of the area,
foundation characteristics, water availability, availability of
required material within reasonable distance, accessibility of the
site etc.

 After the preliminary selection of site, another important aspect

is thorough investigations of the site. However, an experienced
Engineer can predict the likely type of dam for a given site
without requisite investigations being done.

 Time and Money spent in doing the investigations always leads

to a wise engineering decisions and avoids the various kinds of
surprises during execution, delay in completion and making the
project expensive.
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 Topography:
 The River cross – section at the dam site should preferably
have a narrow gorge to reduce the length of the dam.
 The gorge should open out upstream to provide large basin
for a reservoir.
 In case there is a confluence of two or more rivers in the
selected reach, the dam should preferably be located
downstream of the confluence to take advantage of the flow
of all rivers.
 The dam should be preferably located where the river bed is
high, so that the height and cost of the dam is reduced.

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 Foundation:
 Suitable foundation should exist at the site for the particular
type of dam. If suitable foundation is not available but it can
be improved by adopting various measures, the site may be
considered for selection.
 In general foundations should be free from seams, open
pockets or fault planes.
 Formation of hard and soft layers alternates are not generally
good, because the penetration of water may weaken the soft
layers and lead to movement along them.
 Requirements of foundation are more stringent for Concrete
Gravity dams as compared to the Earth & Rockfill dams.
Stability of concrete dam is controlled principally by the
adequacy of the engineering properties of the foundation
material such as - Load bearing capacity , Shearing strength,
Permeability and Erosion Resistance etc.
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 Seismicity of Area:
In highly seismic zones, first choice for the
construction of the dams is for Earth & Rockfill type
dams as such dams have inherent property of high
shock absorption during the event of shaking.

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 Reservoir and Catchment Area:
 The site should ensure adequate storage capacity of reservoir
basin at minimum cost.
 The cost of land and property submerged in the water spread
area should be minimum.
 The geological conditions of the catchment area should be
such that percolation losses are minimum and maximum
runoff is obtained.
 The site should be such that a deep reservoir is formed after
the construction of the dam. A deep reservoir is preferred to a
shallow reservoir because in the former the evaporation losses
are small, the cost of land acquisition is low and the weed
growth is less.
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 The site should be such that the submerged area is minimum.
It should not submerge costly land and property. It should
not affect the ecology of the region. Monuments of historical
and architectural importance should not be submerged.
 The dam site should be such that the reservoir would not silt
up quickly. The life of the reservoir depends upon the rate of
silting. The site should be selected such that it avoids or
excludes the water from those tributaries which carry a high
percentage of silt
 The soil and rock mass at the reservoir site should not contain
any objectionable soluble minerals which may contaminate
the water. The stored water should be suitable for the purpose
for which the water is required.

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 Spillway site:
 A good site for a spillway should exist at or near the darn site. The valley
should be sufficiently wide to locate the spillway if it is an integral part
of the dam. If the spillway is to be located separately, the best site of
spillway is that in which there is a saddle near the dam site which is
separated from it by a hillock. In that case, the main dam can be
located in the gorge and the spillway can be constructed in the saddle.

If the site conditions are such that the spillway must be located in the
main river channel, the types of dams that can accomodate an overflow
spillway should be considered.
 Material:
 Material required for a particular type of Dam should be available
nearby, cost of construction is quite dependent on this factor. For the
Earth & Rockfill dam, material for placement in all the zones should be
available locally. In case of concrete dams, the main requirement is for
availability of aggregates for production of concrete.

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 Accessibility:
 It would be preferable to select a site which is connected
by a road or rail link or can be conveniently connected so
that Man , Machinery and other equipments can easily
be transported to the site.

 Low cost of real estate:

 The cost of real estate for the reservoir site, dam,
dwellings, roads, railways, etc. should be low.

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 Minimum overall cost:

 The site should be such that it entails the minimum overall
cost of the project, including subsequent maintenance.
 Generally, two or three probable sites are selected and rough
estimates are made. The site which entails the minimum
overall cost is then selected.

 Other considerations:
 For the development of a particular backward area, the dam
may be constructed in that region. Sometimes public opinion
and economic consideration of the region may affect the site
selection of a dam.

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 Based upon the stage of a project, investigations

carried out for selection of site can be categorised into
following three stages:
 Preliminary Investigations
 Detailed Investigations and
 Pre Construction Investigations

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 Preliminary Investigations:
 To avoid expenditure on detailed investigation it is
always advisable to prepare preliminary feasibility report
on the basis of preliminary investigations.
 Preliminary Investigations cover mainly the following
 Water Availability Studies
 Hydrological Studies
 Topographical Survey
 Geological and Foundation Surveys

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 Detailed investigations:
 Detailed Investigations are carried out if after
preliminary investigation project is found to be feasible,
so that detailed project report can be prepared in order
to evaluate cost and benefits from project with accuracy.

 Pre construction investigations

 Pre construction investigations are done to do detailed
structural design.

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 Based upon the type of investigations, it can be

categorised as below:
 Surface Investigations
 Subsurface Investigations
 Geotechnical investigations on construction materials.
 Hydro Meteorological Investigations

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 Surface Investigations:
 Preliminary Surveys
 Satellite Imageries.
 Topographical Surveys
 Geological Mapping.

 Sub Surface Investigations:

 Drilling and logging.
 To decipher the thickness of overburden, weathering and
distressing of rockmass, depth of sound rock and rock mass
quality value.
 Test Pits.
 An excavation made to examine foundation and to determine
whether an area is suitable for dam construction; includes the
taking of rock samples and the determining of the depth of

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 Drifts.
 Geological features predicted based upon drilling and logging
can be physically verified through drifts. Drifts also provides a
facility for conducting in-situ tests.

 Geophysical Investigations.
 Assessment of elastic and stress strain characteristics of rocks in
the area.

 In situ Tests.
 In-situ tests are carried out to find actual values of various
parameters (e.g. Permeability, stress etc.) at a particular site to
take into account the influence of site conditions.

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 Geotechnical Investigations Depending upon the type of Construction
Materials to be used:
 Grain Size Distribution
 Mineralogical composition
 Atterberg Limits
 Shear & consolidation Parameters
 Density
 Permeability
 Dispersivity & erodibility etc.
 Crushing value
 Soundness, Alkali aggregate reactivity
 Abrasivity etc.

 Hydro Meteorological Investigations:

 River Discharge
 Rainfall
 Silt Load
 Temperature
 Wind Velocity
 Snow Cover Area.

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 Based upon the Investigation data, following
information is generated:
 Geological & Tectonic Data.
 Flood Estimation at Dam site.
 Water Availability .
 Sedimentation Data
 Design of foundation treatment scheme
 Selection of fill materials and Design properties
 Design of Diversion Structures.
 Fixation of Dam height.
 Design of Spillway System .
 Power Potential .
 Life of reservoir etc.

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Case Study
Tehri Dam Site

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Salient Features of Tehri Dam

 Type : Earth & Rockfill

 Height of dam : 260.5 m
 Base Width : 1125 m
 Width at top : 25.5 m
 Length at the top : 592.7 m
 U/s Slope : 2.5H : 1V
 D/s Slope : 2H : 1V

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 Tehri site was having following features which made it
an ideal location for building such a huge Gigantic
 Main topographic feature which makes it ideal location
 The River cross – section at the dam site was a narrow gorge
and it opens upstream. Which means reduced length of Dam
and sufficient space for reservoir.
 Dam is situated at the confluence of two rivers i.e. Bhagirathi
and Bhilanagana and having advantage of flow of both Rivers.

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 Material For Construction:
 For construction of such a gigantic structure huge
amount of construction material (about 279.8 lac cu.m)
was required. At Tehri site, main construction materials
required for the core and shell zones of the dam i.e. clay
and sandy-gravelly material were available within a
distance of about 3 to 5 km of Dam site, which made it a
favourable site for construction of an Earth & Rockfill

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Investigations for 260.5 m high Tehri
Dam ( Earth & Rock Fill Dam)

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 After selection of ideal topographical location for the Tehri Dam,
detailed Geological investigation were carried out in the dam
foundation area and Geo-technical Investigations on the fill
materials, for finalisation of various design details.

 Geological investigations were started in 1961 by GSI and were

further continued till the construction stages. Geo-technical
Investigations were carried out with the involvement of various
reputed agencies viz., IRI, Roorkee; CSMRS, New Delhi; IIT,
Roorkee; CMRI, Dhanbad etc.

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To determine the thickness of river borne material, at the Dam site
following geological explorations were made:
 Drilling,
 Drifting,
 Geophysical profiling,
 Geological logging of the under riverbed portion of the
foundation through exploratory drifts. etc.

Besides above, following investigations were also made:

 In situ water percolation tests in dam foundation,
 Test grouting in dam core foundation,
 Compression tests on rock core,
 In situ rock modulus tests,
 Hydro fracturing tests in dam core foundation etc.

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 Exploration by Drill Holes

 In order to decipher the thickness of overburden, weathering

and distressing of rockmass and depth of sound rock on
either abutment and in the riverbed section, about 76 nos. of
drill holes were drilled in the entire dam area.
 Depth of the drill holes ~ 12 m to 150 m.
 Out of total 76 drill holes, 27 drill holes fall in the core seat
 The thickness of estimated river borne material in the main
dam core area ~ 4m to 14m.
 In the coffer dam core area, on the R/A, thickness of
overburden ~ 25m and depth to relatively sound bedrock as
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 Exploration Through Drifts

 About 31 nos. of exploratory drifts of size 2m X 2m involving

about 1470 m of drifting were excavated.
 10 drifts (4 on the L/A and 6 on R/A) involving about 400m
length were excavated in the dam core portion to assess the
rock mass conditions in the abutments and demarcate the
limits of overburden mass, weathered or distressed rockmass,
slump zone and also to decipher sound rock profile. It helped
in determining the extent of stripping in the core foundation
 The inferred depth of stripping on the left abutment ~ 15m to
30m and ~ 15m to 21m on the right abutment.
 Plate load tests were also conducted inside the exploratory
drifts for determining the modulus of elasticity and the
modulus of deformation of rock mass.

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 Geophysical Investigations:
Objective of geophysical investigations was:
 Identification of the thickness and state of the zones of
surface weathering and distressing;
 Determination of surface of relatively sound bedrock;
 Identification and aerial tracing of tectonic fault zones;
 Assessment of elastic and stress strain characteristics of
rocks in the area in their bedding;

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To fulfil above mentioned objectives following works were
carried out at the Dam site:
 Dam core abutment area was covered with 2774 m of
seismic profiles.
 ~ 2024 m of seismic shooting in the L/B.
 ~ 750 m in the R/B.
 The main work was done with 5-6 m spread of
geophones, shot-points spaced at 25-115 m and
maximum hodograph length of 230 m.
 The total number of profiles covering the left & right
bank slopes was 14 & 6 respectively.

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 Main findings of the Geophysical Investigations:

 The average thickness of the zone of surface weathering and

distressing on the left bank slope ~ 10-20 m and that on the
right bank ~ 20-25 m. The bedrock within the zone of
weathering and distressing was characterized by Longitudinal
wave velocity (Vp) values varying from 1.0 to 3.9 km/s.

 Value of Vp ranged from 3.2 to 6.3 km/s in relatively sound

bedrock of the left bank rock mass and from 3.2 to 5.2 km/s in
the right bank rock mass. The modulus of deformation D-
varied from 2000 to 16000 Mpa.

 The bedrock within the tectonic fault zones was

characterised by Vp values varying from 1.6 to 2.6 km/s. The
modulus of deformation in the zones of tectonic faults varied
from 500 to 2000 Mpa.

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 In situ water percolation tests:

 Tests Before Stripping of dam core foundation area : Water

percolation tests were carried out in about 58 nos. drill holes, out of
which 27 nos. of holes were in the core seat area.

 Tests After Stripping of dam core foundation area :

5 nos. of additional in-situ permeability tests were conducted to get
additional information about the permeability of foundation rocks.

 Tests during Curtain Grouting Work:

Variation of in-situ permeability of rockmass along the grout curtain,
was also observed by conducting water loss tests in u/s row of grout
curtain during the course of actual grouting work.
It was seen that the permeability in the riverbed zone was very low.
Further, permeability of the right abutment was slightly more as
compared to the left abutment.

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 Test grouting:
 To ascertain the groutability of rock mass and to develop
suitable grouting programme, Test grouting was carried
out on three platforms in the dam area in three grades of
phyllites exposed on the right bank.
 A triangular pattern of trial grouting was adopted for all
the platforms.
 Efficiency of grouting was measured in terms of
percentage of reduction of pre grout permeability of
inspection holes.

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 In- situ Rock Modulus Tests:
 In order to determine the modulus of elasticity and the
modulus of deformation, cyclic plate load tests were
carried out in different grades of rocks in 14 drifts
located on the right bank of Tehri Dam prior to Dec.
1973. The tests were carried out across and along the
foliation planes.

 Further (after Dec. 1973) in-situ plate bearing and

uniaxial jacking tests have also been performed in
exploratory drifts for determination of modulus of
elasticity and deformation modulus in different grades
of phyllites.

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 Hydrofracturing Tests in Core Foundation rocks:
 To find out the reopening pressure of existing joints in
the core foundation rocks of Tehri dam, Hydrofracturing
tests using Minifrac system were conducted in about 10
nos. of drill holes.
 Tested depth was upto 15m from the stripped core
 Re-opening pressure as obtained from the tests had
ranged from 17.25 to 41.4 kg/cm2.
 Based on these test results, maximum limit of grouting
pressure in the dam foundation was kept in between 10
to 12 kg/cm2.

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 During the period from 1963 to 1971, a number of vertical
and inclined drill holes were put down in the river bed
section and from both the abutments.

 The excessive loss of core recovery in the inclined holes

coupled with other features indicated existence of a
major shear zone on downstream. However, the
complete absence of its exposure on any of the
abutments, particularly in the reaches where river flows
through the bends had created doubts about its
existence and disposition.

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 For making a reassessment , additional vertical and
inclined holes were put down in the river bed. The
drilling data did not indicate any prominent fault zone
in the river bed. 3 drill holes were electrically logged
observations made from which provided support to the
interpretation that the drill holes have not intersected
any major shear zone.

 Subsequently, in early 1987, a 63.9 m long exploratory

drift was driven under the riverbed from the R/B to the
L/B. This drift was located at about 55m d/s of the main
dam axis. 3D geological logging of this drift convincingly
disproved the existence of a riverbed shear zone at the
dam site.

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 Construction of Tehri dam required about 27.98 M Cu.m
of fill materials for the core, transition, shell & riprap
zones. In order to evaluate the suitability of these
materials, preliminary investigations at 14 different sites
for core material (within a distance of 5 to 35 km from
dam site), 2 sites for transition and shell materials and
various sites for riprap material were conducted.

 After preliminary investigation for construction material

few sites were selected to carry out the detailed
investigations. For clay Koti borrow area and for shell
material Dobata area was selected.

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 Investigations at Koti borrow area (for clay):
 The area was first investigated with 40 auger holes of shallow depth
and samples collected and analysed for grain size classification.
Subsequently 22 pits were dug in the whole area, some pits were as
deep as 20 m.

 To determine the Grain Size Distribution, 82 samples were collected

from the 22 pits at various depths. From these, the average gradation
curves for the pits were worked out. Atterberg’s Limits for all the 82
samples were determined and samples were classified as per BIS

 For determining Mineralogical Composition, three samples were

subjected to X-ray diffraction analysis.

 In order to check the Dispersivity of soil, 76 samples taken from

different pits at various depths were subjected to various tests viz,
Crumb test, S.C.S. Laboratory dispersion tests, Percentage of sodium
salts in pore water and Pin hole test.
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 Permeability tests were conducted in laboratory on 10 samples
collected from various pits. Average permeability was worked out as
0.63 X 10-7 cms/sec .

 Specific gravity tests were conducted on 49 disturbed samples. The

average specific gravity of the material was 2.68.

 Insitu wet density, Insitu moisture content and Insitu dry density of
four undisturbed samples were also determined.

 Average Optimum moisture content and corresponding optimum dry

densities at standard proctor’s compaction effort for 45 samples taken
from various pits at different depths, were worked out as 14-15% and
1.827 gm/cc respectively.

 The consolidation characteristics of Koti Borrow area material have

been determined by conducting one dimensional tests on 21 samples

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 Triaxial shear tests:
 Unconsolidated undrained tests

 Consolidated drained tests

 Consolidated undrained tests

 Hydraulic fracturing tests.

 Dynamic Shear Modulus:

 Block Vibration tests

 Wave Propagation tests

 Vertical Dynamic Plate Load Test

 Dynamic shear parameters .

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 Investigations at Dobata borrow area (for shell
 Shell material has been borrowed from Dobata borrow area.
For exploring the Dobata terrace, 63 & 42 nos. of pits were dug
in old and new Dobata areas respectively. Samples taken from
the pits were subjected to various tests as below:
 Grain size classification .

 Direct Shear tests.

 Triaxial shear tests.

 Field and laboratory Permeability tests .

 Oedometer tests (one dimensional compression tests) .

 Long term deformability tests.

 Dynamic Shear Modulus test.

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 Investigations / Testing of filters:
 Transition zone between core and shell zones has been
designed as filter. Taking into consideration of the risk of
crack formation in the core, the material used for these zones
ranged from sand to gravel size. Following investigations and
tests were conducted for selection of filter material.
 Permeability tests.

 Internal erosion of filters tests.

 Crushing ratio (particle breakage).

 Triaxial shear tests .

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 Investigations for Riprap material:
 For the protection of the dam slopes and increasing stability of
slopes during seismic activity, a well graded hard blasted rock i.e.
riprap (5 mm-1200 mm) has been provided on both the slopes of the
dam. Suitability of prospective quarry sites for this material was
evaluated in terms of its rock quality, quantity and distance from the
dam site.
 Tests and studies conducted in borrow areas for checking the
suitability of Riprap material were as below:
 Compressive Strength.
 Bulk Density.
 Softening Coefficient.
 Water Absorption.
 Triaxial Shear Tests
 Experimental Study for estimation of Seismic Pore Water
Pressures .
 Ground Penetrating Radar Survey for estimation of overburden in
quarry areas.

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Investigations for Pipalkoti Dam
(Concrete Gravity Dam)

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Salient Features of Pipalkoti Dam

 Type : Concrete Gravity Dam

 Height of dam : 65 m
 Length at the top : 89.3 m
 River : Alaknanda
 Location : District Chamoli

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 For the selection of Dam site 5 different sites were
explored during the Preliminary Stage of the Project.
 Upper Barrage Site (B-1)
 Site was suitable for construction point of view but advantage
of discharge of two tributaries (Karmansa and Kalpa Ganga
river) of Alaknanda river meeting just downstream of this
site is not there.
 Lower Barrage/Dam Site 1
 This site is not taking full advantage of water head available.
 Dam Site 2
 This site have strong possibility of Rock Fall on the right

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 Dam Site 3
 This site does not appear suitable as about 20 m thick river
borne material terrace exists above water level on both the
banks of river.
 Dam Site 4
 Dam Site 4 was selected to carry out the Detailed
Investigation as this site was free from the Danger of Rock Fall
as compared to other sites. Also on preliminary investigation,
anticipated depth of overburden was less as compared to
other explored sites.

Finally proposed dam site is located 50 m d/s of the D4 site.

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 Geotechnical Explorations and Field
For obtaining the information with regard to geological
characteristics of rockmass and depth of overburden etc.,
detailed geotechnical explorations through exploratory drifts
and drilling were carried out at Pipalkoti Dam site.
 Drifting:
 In order to explore the rock condition, two exploratory drifts of
size 2 m x 1.8 m on the left and right bank of the river Alaknanda
were excavated. From these two Drifts, cross cuts have been
 In total 150 m of drifting was done at Pipalkoti Dam site.

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 Drilling:
 In order to decipher the depth of overburden and nature of
formation below the Dam site, ten nos. of boreholes were
done during the DPR stage. In total 500 m of Drilling is
carried out at the Dam site. Based on the investigations, depth
of overburden in the riverbed has been estimated about 20m.

 Subsequently, in order to have an idea about the depth of

colluvium material on the left bank of the river (in the vicinity
of dam), three nos of boreholes were also done in the area at
about 100m u/s of the dam site. Depth of alluvium in that area
has been estimated around 40 to 50m.

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 Seismic Refraction Survey:
 To determine the depth of overburden, level of rock at dam
site and to infer rock quality, seismic refraction survey both on
land and underwater along five traverses was carried out.

 The lengths of two land profiles for the survey was between
100 m to 115 m while the same for underwater profiles ranged
from 50 m to 120 m.

 The subsurface strata information inferred from this survey

was used in designing the foundations of various structures.

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On Land:
 Top layer having compression wave velocity between 300 m/sec and
600 m/sec was inferred to be loose boulder bed (thickness 3.5 to 11
 Land having wave velocity between 800 m/sec and 1200 m/sec was
inferred to be compact / partially saturated boulder bed.
 The quartzite rock velocity along land profiles ranged between 3000
m/sec and 4000 m/sec.

 Velocity below 2000 m/sec was interpreted to be saturated bouldary
 Layer having velocity between 2000 m/sec and 3000 m/sec may
represent compact bouldary bed / weathered quartzite rock
 Rock velocity varied from 4000 m/sec to 6000 m/sec.
 The depth to rock varied from 10m to 22m.

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Estimation of Geo-mechanical Properties of Rock Cores:

 From the dam site, test samples were collected from three drill holes.

 Based upon the laboratory testing following properties of the rock were

- Unit Weight (25.7 to 28.4 KN/m3)

- Void Index (3.8 to 6.1)
-Specific Gravity (2.8)
-Brazilian Tensile Strength (9.13 to 17.95 Mpa)
- Uniaxial Compressive Strength (43.2 to 102.13 Mpa)
- Tangent Modulus (2.99 to 14.12 Gpa)
- Poisson’s ratio (0.21 to 0.26)
- Shear Strength Parameters (C = 20.71 to 37.19 Mpa, Ф = 45.8 to 47.90).

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