October 19, 2012

Damodar River Barrage, Durgapur

Perhaps the only place in Durgapur that can be both disappointing & entertaining at the same time, the Barrage is one of those few places in the city that I have visited several times & will perhaps continue to do so in the near future. The times spent at the Barrage can be considered bitter-sweet experiences – at times I had great fun & enjoyed myself to the hilt, at times it was boring being there with nothing to do except gandering around – either case it is the company of friends that made the experience awesome or shitty. The Barrage, like the rest of Durgapur is not very mesmerizing, or visit-worthy on its own – however the open spaces it affords at certain times of the year, along with the people you get to meet in its immediate vicinity, certainly make it one of the best tourist-spots in the city, despite the fact that there isn’t much to see here – just a medium-sized reservoir to restrict the flow of (not so mighty) Damodar river. Infact the Barrage, though officially controlled by Damodar River Valley Corporation that builds dams & produces electricity, is actually regulated by the West Bengal Government. May be that is the reason why the dam hasn’t been maintained properly & its landscaping & tourism potential allowed to go down the proverbial sink.

Durgapur Barrage

On either side of the Barrage are large basins where water flows through, & at times when the sluice gates have been closed for some considerable time (for flood control & irrigation purposes) & one side of the Barrage is devoid of much water flow, the basin on that side dries up to reveal layers upon layers of sand – dry & patterned by the movement of waves that passed over it, & inscribed with shoe (& foot) prints of people who take to these “newly formed” grounds like fish to water. & that is the best time to visit the Barrage – you can run in the sand (though it will fill your shoes & you won’t be able to run fast because of the sinking effect), you can take photographs – especially of the structure as it starts glowing up at dusk, or of the people – you can get some interesting silhouettes with the setting sun as the background, or you can simply wander around, adoring the entire built structure.

Sands of time..

The sluice gates are large & the stones that flank them have been rounded & given a semi ziggurat-like appearance. Since the Barrage was built way back in 1955, the stones do show signs of decay & erosion, & at some spots they have been too blackened with who-knows-what accumulating on the surface for so many years. The Barrage doubles up as a bridge with heavy vehicular flow at almost all times of the day, & when the water flows underneath, you can observe reflections of the vehicles & their headlights – not such a great scene either, but then who told you to come to boring Durgapur, eh?? From the top of the structure or the adjoining roads, one can also observe the fast flow of the river & the eddys formed in the water. More often than not, the flow appears dangerous & one tends to shirk back with apprehensions of falling over.

“Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real, and you're just a reflection of him?” (Bill Watterson)

Also when the reservoirs are full, policemen tend to prevent people from going down the bridge (large stairs & rock-&-sand make up the walls of the basin) as many people often tend to fall in the waters due to recklessness. I have been told many have died here too. Spooky right?? To think I was walking over the same river floor some days back!! Vendors line the small kiosks that have been built on either side of the Barrage, selling roasted corn cobs, phuchkas, ice creams (not the real ones though, these were mostly flavored water with who-knows-what added to impart an odd graininess) & jhal muri. Some families with little kids always kept the vendors busy, buying one eatable or the other. When the Barrage is full with gushing waters, one can spot local men with fishing rods sitting on the rocky edges of the basin, some sold what they caught nearby, others carried their catch home. Either way I had fun photographing these fishermen & fish-sellers. When the Barrage is almost empty, the same men can be seen with their fishing rods in small boats in the middle of the small streams emanating from the Barrage gaps. OK, I agree the streams aren’t that small either – after all boats ply over them – but they aren’t so large either, just some deep pools accumulated here & there.

Lets catch some fish!!

A visit to the Barrage can at times turn into an exhilarating joy ride – for instance the last time I visited the Barrage with some friends, we had no knowledge that there are no facilities for public transport near the Barrage at night (err..that is Durgapur night, 6 pm in the evening!!), & since it was already 7 & we let the last bus go as it was overcrowded (we did not know it would be the last bus either) we had to walk a considerable distance after which we were able to flag a passing taxi & somehow some seven people & a driver squeezed into a car!! But it was more or less fun, walking down a road without any streetlights & no barricades separating us from the gushing waters of a canal that parted from the Barrage & flowed perpendicular to it. The sound of fast flowing water & occasional croaks of frogs was music to our ears.

I wish I too could fly!!

Also by overcrowded buses around the Barrage, I mean way too overcrowded buses, with as many people sitting on the roof of the bus as inside it - & then there are those who keep standing in the bus – I mean it doesn’t even look humane, but then that’s how Durgapur (& the rest of India in extension) is. I read on the internet that the Barrage is also home to several species of colorful birds & the Govt. is considering a special “wildlife sanctuary” status for it – sadly I have to debunk this supposed “fact” – I have so far been unable to spot any especially different or beautiful bird around the Barrage despite being there several times at different times of the day & in different seasons too. May be they did not like me flashing a camera around – another supposed “fact” is that photography is not allowed the Barrage – there wasn’t anyone to stop me, or my friends, from taking pictures of or around the Barrage. In fact, the last time I was there, some of my friends agreed to do a bit of modelling (to be honest, just some poses) for me, & despite the presence of a few policemen, no one stopped us from taking any pictures. Whatever it may be like, I am awaiting my next trip to Barrage with friends – for more photography & modelling of course, but this time around we will visit the place in the afternoon & stay there till night (Durgapur night I mean!!). It ought to be fun.

Clicked it when I myself was sitting on the roof of another bus!!

Open : All days, Sunrise to Sunset
How to reach : Taxis & buses can be availed from different parts of the city. However the public transport systems can't be trusted for showing up after 7 p.m.
Entrance fee : Nil
Photography/Video Charges : Nil (Though it has been claimed that photography/video making is prohibited here, but I was never stopped from taking any photos.)
Time required for sightseeing : Although you can recce the entire area in 45 minutes, you are free to stay as long as you wish to.


  1. I loved the photographs you clicked, especially the last one. Liked the editing on it. The third photo is good to but blurry, which sort of steals the magic.

  2. A very boring place with nothing much to do. Koi mat jana yhan to..

  3. AnonymousMay 03, 2013

    durgapur is a fourth category place pls do not go to that place

  4. In Durgapur, the river Damodar demarcates the districts of Burdwan (where Durgapur is situated) and Bankura (on the other side of the river). Compared to Burdwan district in general and Durgapur in particular, Bankura is vastly underdeveloped. Buses between Durgapur and various places in Bankura and Purulia districts ply over the DVC barrage at Durgapur. People from these places usually come to Durgapur fro their livelihood and trade and return at dusk. Hence all night transport can not be expected at this section. There are a number of barrages and dams on the river upstream in Jharkhand. Hence, the reservoir is not always full to the brim. Besides a lot of water is let into the irrigation canals during the farming season. While the barrage acts as a bridge, with the sizeable increase in traffic, the government should consider constructing a bridge on the river and if possible a railway bridge too, to ease the pressure on the barrage as well as for developing connectivity between the regions.
    Jumping on the sands of the river bed during the lean season might not be actually as playful as it sounds. A few ares have quagmires and have resulted in deaths in the past. Drunken behaviour, especially by groups of students (including from NIT) have led to deaths in the past. Spooky or not, the place is not for irresponsible and stupid people.
    Although favoured by a large number of picnickers during the winter, I personally find the place worth visiting during the monsoon. The river is full and water gushes out in torrents when the sluice gates are opened. The scene can be fearfully enchanting. The place is otherwise generally calm and idyllic round the year and can offer a breath of fresh air to city dwellers unlike the filthy Yamuna in Delhi.

    1. Hi! Thank you for stopping by and taking out the time to read and discuss.

      I did not at all know about the quagmires - that might explain the presence of policemen around the barrage at all times and their advising people not to head too far from the edges of the bank, even when the river bed was dry. Thankfully, everyone (including us) did follow their instructions.

      Such incidents could occur with almost anyone at such a place without any indication or premonition of occurring - sand shifting action might lead to the formation of quagmires where there were none earlier, someone might slip or not be aware of the region's history (we weren't). I believe it would be wrong to refer to anyone as stupid/irresponsible in such a scenario.

      Thanks again for the valuable information you shared.

  5. Boring? Yes, Durgapur does not offer ample opportunities for boozing and chasing skirts throughout the day. Those who seek such entertaiment actually stink and are far from welcome here.