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World Tunnel Congress 2008 - Underground Facilities for Better Environment and Safety - India

Construction of the desilting chambers for the Nathpa Jhakri hydroelectric

project, India
T.G. Carter & M.J. Telesnicki
Golder Associates Ltd., Canada

M.L. Kenny, D.M. Brophy, J.L. Carvalho, D.E. Steels & H.S. Dhillon
Aecon Constructors Ltd., Canada

SYNOPSIS: Construction of the four, closely spaced 525m long, 16m wide, 30m high caverns forming the
Desilting Chamber Complex for the Nathpa Jhakri Hydro-electric Scheme in Himachal Province in Northern
India posed numerous challenges as a consequence of (i) the difficult rock conditions, (ii) the end use design
requirements and (iii) the physical layout arrangements of the Chambers with respect to the multiple access
tunnels and waterway conduits. This paper discusses the rock mechanics measures undertaken to safely
excavate and support the complex gneissic and schistose rock mass, including the reinforcing of several large
wedge failure geometries evident in the curved Chamber sidewalls. The detailed construction steps taken to
develop the staged sequence for excavating the full Chamber profiles are described, and outlines are
presented of the controlled excavation methods and extensive rock reinforcement undertaken to create the
required curved wall excavation shapes and preserve the slender pillars between the Chambers. The
application of the fibrereinforced shotcrete lining is discussed. Because of the difficult rock conditions and
relatively high stress state several detailed 2-D and 3-D numerical modelling analyses were undertaken to
examine the stability of the Chambers as a basis for reinforcing the Chamber sidewalls, crowns and pillars,
taking into account the numerous inter-connecting access and waterway tunnels and shafts. The results of the
modelling are explored in the light of observed deformation behaviour of the Chambers during excavation.



Construction of the Desilting Chamber Complex for

the Nathpa Jhakri scheme, which was carried out
from 1994 to 2004, involved excavation of four
major Chambers, each of a size similar to that
typical for the main cavern of an underground
power station, (Figure 1). The Chamber layouts and
associated tunnel works, which were principally
sized and dimensioned for silt control purposes,
were designed by the Central Water Commission
(CWC) for Satluj Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVN), a
Joint Venture of the Government of India and
Himachal Pradesh, formerly known as the Nathpa
Jhakri Power Corporation (NJPC). As such the
layouts of the tunnels and chambers were optimized
principally from a hydraulics viewpoint, with rock
mechanics aspects only considered of secondary
importance. However, in the steep Himalayan
topography of the site, steeply dipping geology

(phyllites, gneisses and schists) dominated rock

conditions, making excavating and reinforcing the
Chambers and Intake structures challenging. From
the contractors perspective the main Chamber
constructability issues were wall and crown control,
pillar reinforcement and excavation sequencing,
while for the Chamber Intakes, rockslide stability
was of most concern.
As shown on Figure 2, the 1500 MW Nathpa
Jhakri Hydroelectric Power Project is located in a
remote northern area of India in the upper reaches
of the River Sutluj in the state of Himachal Pradesh,
(HP) almost on the Chinese border. The project has
been implemented at a total project cost in excess of
US$1.2 billion, about a third of which was funded
by the World Bank. Aecon Constructors, through
its wholly owned subsidiary, The Foundation
Company of Canada, was Managing Party of one of
the joint ventures constructing the project,
responsible for undertaking two of the main


Figure 1. Desilting Chamber #3

Figure 2. Project location & scheme layout


civil work contracts, totalling $640M. These

construction contracts included the Main Dam, the
Intakes and the Desilting Chambers (Figure 3) and
approximately 16km of the Headrace Tunnel.
Throughout the eleven years of the joint ventures
contract works, Golder Associates provided
geotechnical and geological engineering advice,
with much of the emphasis on the Chambers.
1.1 Desilting arrangements
As designed by SJVN, the Nathpa Jhakri scheme is
basically a run-of-river power development and was
the largest project identified on the Satluj for
harnessing its hydroelectric potential. A design
discharge of 486 cumecs is diverted from the river
into the four gate intake arrangements, by a 61.5 m
high concrete gravity dam, (Figure 4). In an
attempt to exclude silt particles of up to 0.2 mm
diameter from the water before it enters the
Headrace Tunnel, the Intakes feed into a complex of
four Underground Desilting Chambers (the largest
in the world) through independent approach tunnels.
As is evident from Figure 3, the Desilting Complex
required significant rock engineering input in order
to safely excavate and support the four 525 m long,
30 m high, 16m wide chambers, which are each
lined with steel fibre reinforced shotcrete, and
heavily supported with a surficial rockbolt
anchorage pattern and long cable and bar anchor
systems. Completion of the Chamber complex
required removal of more than 1 million m3 of rock.
From the Chambers, as per the right hand
diagram on Figure 2, the water runs in a 10.15 m
diameter circular section Headrace Tunnel for 27.3
kms. to terminate in a 21 m diameter, 225 m deep
Surge Shaft. Three Pressure Shafts of 4.9 m
diameter each then take the water from the Surge
Shaft to feed the six Francis Turbine generating
units of 250 MW, each set within a 225m long, 49m
high and 20m span underground powerhouse,
allowing full utilization of the approximately 425m
developed water pressure head.

1.2 Rock mechanics influences on construction

Numerous technical papers describing various
aspects of the scheme from a geological or
geotechnical perspective have already been
published elsewhere, (eg., Kumar and Dhawan,
1999, Dasgupta et al, 1999, Hoek, 1999, 2000;
Bagde, 2000, Mahajan, 2000, Hoek & Marinos,
2000 and Carter et al., 2005). This paper does not
discuss the overall scheme in any detail, rather it
concentrates on examining the rock conditions
encountered during excavation of the Desilting
Chambers by the Continental-Foundation Joint
Venture (CFJV). It is of note that the steeply
dipping foliated nature of the rockmass has been a
dominating influence on almost all aspects of the
underground excavation works. As shown in the
before and after cable anchoring photographs of
the Desilting Complex Intakes works (ref. Figures
5a and 5b respectively) the foliation in the rockmass
at the Desilting Complex is pervasive, also
controlling much of the surface topography.
Largely because of difficult rock conditions
and access, the Contract works undertaken by
Aecon Constructors as part of ContinentalFoundations Joint Venture (CFJV), which were
envisaged to take about 57 months, ended up taking
131 months to final completion and startup of
operation of all the Generators. The largest delays
to progress in the Intake and Chambers areas
occurred because of:
(a) pillar stability issues in the Chambers due to
the more foliated nature of the rockmass than
expected and the slenderness of the interChamber pillars, the rock support designs
indicated in the tender documents needed
enhancing. This was accomplished by
installation of three rows of 20m long 60T
cable anchors through massive concrete beams
cast on each Chamber wall, together with over
reinforcement elements (bolts and dowels).
. and .


Figure 3. Desilting complex

Figure 4. Completed Intakes and dam

Figure 5a.

Original rock condition

Figure 5b. Desilting area intakes after cable anchor installation


(b) slope stability issues in the Intakes area due

to the fact that the valley side slopes at the
intake site were not stable enough for the
required rock cuts needed to reach the structure
foundations, remedial stabilization works were
required. To completion of this works area,
eventually 600 cable anchors of 40m length
and 200T capacity were required to be added
as additional support.


Excavation of the four Desilting Chambers

progressed in parallel as much as possible in order
to expedite construction progress and also to
minimize any stress-related rock interaction effects
(for example of having one Chamber excavated
significantly ahead of the adjacent Chamber
headings). The initial stage of excavation for each
of the Chambers utilized a crown access, developed
by conventional top heading and benching, with
side slashes to develop the full haunch profile
(Segments A and B as shown on Figure 6). Several
of the main adit cross cuts were also constructed at
much the same time as the initial crown drift in
order to allow access to two different elevations
within the overall Chamber Complex (ref layouts
shown on Figures 3 and 6). The remainder of the
Chamber profiles were then constructed by
benching, again with the intention of maintaining
reasonable sequencing in the benching operations so
as to avoid inter-Chamber interaction problems due
to stress readjustments. Figures 6a and 6b show in
section and plan, respectively, where segments of
the top headings and segments of benching were
planned to be underway sequentially. The diagrams
respectively illustrate the staged excavation
sequence, as tendered and one typical stage (time
snapshot) during the development (as modelled for
rock mechanics evaluation). Comparison of the
tender layout (Figure 6a) with the inset diagram on
the left of Figure 6b, shows the differences in
excavation benching between the tender proposal
and actual (as constructed) staging.
2.1 Crown top headings
Excavation of the Central Pilot Heading of the four
Chambers (i.e., Excavation Sequence 1, Modelling
Segment A as shown on Figure 6a) was completed
concurrently over the following periods:



Chamber 1 4-10-95 to 17-4-97

20-4-97 to 23-9-97

Chamber 2 21-10-95 to 12-12-96

25-3-97 to 17-9-97

Chamber 3 21-10-95 to 10-11-96

20-4-97 to 6-11-97

Chamber 4 21-10-95 to 15-11-96

11-1-97 to 21-7-97

Typically 3.5 - 4.0m rounds were excavated

for the top heading and haunches, and at each stage
the rock condition and details of each face were
mapped and classified using standard rock mass
classification methods (i.e., following Barton et al,
1977, Bieniawski, 1976, Grimstad & Barton, 1995,
and/or Marinos & Hoek, 2000). Such classifications
then formed the basis for definition of blasting
charge weights and rock reinforcement. Figure 7
shows the typical blasting pattern used for the mid
grade rock conditions (Class III, Q = 4-10; RMR76 =
GSI = 55-65) with a typical powder factor in the 1.2
1.6 kg/m3 range. Throughout these excavations,
support in accordance with the Construction
Drawing layouts was installed and regular proof
testing of bolts was carried out by SJVN to ensure
the adequacy of the installations. Due to some
secondary grouting difficulties encountered with
some of the crown installations in the driving of the
Pilot Headings; and, with the approval of SJVN,
cement cartridges were substituted for uphole
reinforcement, and these agreed procedures were
then utilized throughout development of the sideslashes (Fig. 7).
During the latter stages of excavation of
Sequences 1 and 2, (Modelling segments A & B)
SJVN and Geological Survey of India (GSI)
geologists recognized that on a large scale the
Chambers were being crossed by numerous
adversely oriented, weak geological structures
(biotite and micaceous schist units, and various
shear zones). The pervasive foliation and multiple
shear zones which were found dipping into the
development headings, together with the two
predominant orthogonal joint sets also created a
number of local scale (but still significant) ground
control problems during excavation. In fact, the
extent and weakness of the rockmass, created by
these features was deemed so adverse to stability
and operational efficacy that an unprecedented six
months period of shear seam treatment (including
additional localized excavation, cavity filling,
grouting and additional bolting) was initiated in
each Chamber, starting in June 1997.


The program of shear seam treatment which

was started in Chamber #4 after the main pilot was
through and the side slashes were complete, was
then carried out concurrently into each of other four
Chambers over the following periods:
Chamber 1 -




Chamber 2 -




Chamber 3 -

31-01-98 to


Chamber 4 -

28-09-97 to


Up until initiation of the shear seam treatment,

most of the excavation works had been sprayed with
a 50mm layer of plain shotcrete directly applied
onto all agreed final "treated" rock surfaces.
Following successful trials in February, 1998 and
contractual agreement relating to application of the
Contractor proposed Steel Fibre Reinforced
Shotcrete (SFRS), the first production phase of
"final" SFRS lining was initiated under SJVN
direction in Chamber #1 in March 1998.
Application was conducted under skilled control of
experienced shotcreting crews with regular quality
control panel and spray test cores being routinely
checked and approved by SJVN's testing
laboratories. SFRS lining application, which proved
fundamental to maintaining the integrity of the
near-surface zone of the rockmass, was completed
within each of the four Chambers over the period
from March to July 1998.
2.2 Benching
As soon as the full SFRS lining had been placed
down the Chamber sidewalls as far as permitted by
SJVN (2.5m above the then invert) for the Sequence
1 and 2 crown excavation, SJVN then allowed
initiation of Sequence 3 benching, (Modelling
Segment C). This bench excavation between RD 0
and RD 490 was carried out within each of the
four Chambers over the following periods:

Chamber 1 -




Chamber 2 -

13-08-98 to


Chamber 3 -

25-06-98 to


Chamber 4 -

21-10-98 to


During execution of this sequence over the

period January 1999 to May 1999, difficulties were
experienced with sidewall profile control in the
downstream portions of several of the Chambers, in
particular Chamber #3, due in large part to the
adverse orientation of the prevailing geological
structure. To better control rockmass behaviour,
Sequence 3 and indeed all excavation of the lower
parts of the Chambers, including the hoppers, was
developed by conventional benching, with in the
early phases the centre zone drilled and charged
vertically from the bench above, and the more
critical sidewall zones excavated using parallel
development rounds, drilled longitudinally. Later
on, after completion of sidewall cable anchoring,
when excavation actually recommenced, all further
bench development was carried out only by
horizontal drilling, typically as indicated in Figure 8.
Even with these measures, significant wedge
shaped overbreak zones commonly developed due
to the unfavourably oriented 50 dipping foliation.
Consequently, several methods of benching
development were attempted (including central pilot
and slash, with parallel, longitudinal drilling).
Further measures to control wedge and block slide
releases from the sidewalls were also implemented,
including installation of downward inclined
reinforcement into the lower part of the Sequence 2
sidewalls, thereby adding some support to the walls
alongside the next bench zone to be blasted.
However, as these additional reinforcement
members could only be installed into the
corner zones of the walls and approval from
SJVN was not given for placement of
these elements as countersunk installations
through the next bench blast invert, these measures


Figure 6a. Chamber excavation sequence (as tendered)

Figure 6b. Stage 3 of planned development sequence (as modelled in examine 3D to check stress-interactions)


Figure 7. Typical pilot blasting pattern

Figure 8. Hopper portion Drilling pattern & initiation sequence


only achieved marginal wall profile improvements.

As the problems of sidewall control were not
completely resolved by the above methods
employed during the benching of Sequence 3
(height 5.0 m), in the next bench (Sequence 4) in
addition to maintaining the central pilot and slash
excavation sequence, bench heights were further
reduced to 3.8 m.
For both Sequence 4 and Sequence 3, SFRS
placement followed sequentially with the bench
blasting and the regular program of shear seam
treatment, as per the procedures developed and
agreed with SJVN during the previous treatment
program. It is of note in this regard that throughout
benching, approval for final application of SFRS
was given by SJVN only after completion of
geological mapping, and shear seam identification
and treatment. Final SFRS placement was therefore
delayed somewhat, allowing some further wall
loosening before the remainder of the Sequence 2
and 3 sidewalls were permitted to be sprayed.
Sidewall overbreak issues continued to
dominate wall profile problems, until some
improvement could be achieved when the lower
limit of SFRS was revised by SJVN to allow
placement to within 1 m of the bench horizon.
SFRS was thereafter applied to all the walls of
Sequence 3 excavation in phase with the
development progress, but still with some lag for
shear seam treatment behind the excavation face,
during the following periods.
Chamber 1 -

3rd Aug., 1998

Chamber 2 -

29th Sept., 1998 - 13th July, 1999

Chamber 3 -

16th July, 1998

7th June 1999

Chamber 4 -

18th Dec., 1998 -

31st Oct. 1999

8th Mar., 1999

Although all of the walls were sprayed in each

sequence with SFRS, all as part of the lining
operation, any zones of unstable rock, identified by
CFJV or SJVN during initial development were
immediately then sprayed with a fresh layer of
50mm SFRS. Excavation and support, including
application of SFRS, of Bench Sequences 4 and 5
then continued over the period from June, 1999 to
May, 2000 maintaining the lesser bench height and
central gullet and side slash sequence with regular
approval checks from SJVN. However cracking
problems through the lining continued and at this
time, all bench excavation was halted following a

third major wedge failure close to the intersection of

Adit 2 and Chamber #4, (ref. Figure 3 and 6b for
location). Up until this halt on excavation, sidewall
bolting was being placed in sequence behind the
excavation, with secondary grouting of bolts being
accomplished using pumped in cement in subhorizontal and downward inclined holes, with
cement cartridges being used in any required upholes.


The onset of significant cracking in the SFRS lining

in several of the Chambers and the failure of three
almost identically shaped large rock wedges (ref.
Figure 9b for geometry of one of the failures)
highlighted the need for re-examining prevailing
geological conditions within the Desilting Complex.
Detailed geological mapping by SJVN staff and
staff of the Contractor showed that the Chamber
area, like the Intake cuts (Figure 5a), was dominated
by north-east striking, north-west dipping foliation,
interacting with several other cross-cutting steeply
dipping joint fabrics, and that these discontinuity
fabrics had played a major role in the wedge slides.
3.1 Foliation
The intensity of foliation in the rockmass forming
the sidewalls of the various Chambers varied
markedly depending on rock type, with zones of the
most intense fabric exhibited in the more schistose
sections of the rockmass, as compared with a much
more gneissose texture in the more competent rock
units of the Chamber complex. In the vicinity of the
large sidewall wedge failures foliation was well
developed, but not especially schistose. It however
had a controlling influence on wedge geometry, as
can be inferred from the photograph and isometric
diagrams in Figure 9b, (note, for scale, the people
standing in the Chamber to the right of the wedge).
Detailed examination of the individual wedges
and plotting of stereonets of the controlling jointing
showed that the configuration of bounding jointing
was quite complex. The failure block in all three
cases was found to have been created by the
intersection of no less than 5 joint sets with the
Chamber sidewalls, as follows:


Joint Set



J1 (Foliation)












J5 (Top release)



Main Cross

was undertaken both by the contractor and the

Based on the mapping, the zones highlighted
as being of most concern were where adverse
combinations existed of steep cross-jointing crosscutting the NE-SW striking foliation. As the
foliation, although typically dipping NW at about
55 was found to swing up to 30 in strike and vary
in dip by up to 15 or so degrees, a variety of
different wedge geometries were possible in
different segments of the Chamber sidewalls.

As indicated in the above table these five joint

planes, which formed the block margins as
illustrated in the isometric diagrams on the right
hand side of Figure 9b, can be subdivided into three

the foliation, on which the wedge slid,

the three steeply dipping major crossjoints that bound the subvertical sides of
the block, and

the 30 low angle joint fabric that formed

the top release plane of the wedge.

In fact, several families of similar structures

were mapped (as shown on Figure 10), extending
across the entire Chamber complex, potentially
defining a whole suite of wedges and combinations
of wedges transecting the inter-Chamber Pillars.
3.2 Pillar conditions
Figure 10 shows in section and plan the typical
geological characteristics of the rockmass
surrounding the Chambers and constituting the core
of the pillars separating the Chambers. As is evident
from Figure 10a, the cross-sectional dimensions of
the inter-Chamber pillars varies markedly because
of the curved profile layouts of the Chambers as
required for hydraulic reasons. The pillars are
nearly 60m wide at the Chamber crowns and
Hopper chutes but reach minimum widths of only
some 30m at mid-height. Because of the size of the
wedge failures that had occurred in the Chambers,
and as it was considered that any further, possibly
progressive, wedge release could compromise the
stability of the pillars between the Chambers, a
detailed phase of geological structure mapping was
initiated by GSI geologists on behalf of SJVN and a
major program of numerical modelling and analysis



In order to examine these possibilities in some more

detail, several phases of numerical modelling were
conducted by Golder on behalf of the Contractor
and by NIRM on behalf of SJVN. Modelling was
directed at answering several different questions at
various stages of the project, namely excavation
sequencing, stress-interaction effects and pillar
stability issues. Although the purposes of the
modelling at the various stages was different, results
from all of the modelling phases were found
germane to (a) furthering understanding of the
behaviour of the rockmass, and (b) developing
appropriate support layouts to eliminate further
wedge instability issues.
For the Chamber sidewalls and pillar zones
initial reinforcement layouts (as per the Tender
drawings) required 5m and 6m bolts as the standard
pattern of routine surface zone support, but not
specifically providing deep reinforcement into the
pillar cores. With the pervasive nature of the
foliation, the degree of geologically controlled
overbreak of the sidewalls due to the 50 foliation
dip and other cross-cutting pervasive jointing, pillar
thickness concerns and sidewall stability issues
suggested that much deeper, heavier reinforcement
patterns would be needed to completely stabilize the
pillar core zones.
The fact that three major wedge failures, each
up to 15m high and 8m deep had occurred was
further impetus to re-evaluate the need for deeper,
comprehensive integral sidewall support. The fact
that these failures developed deeper than the surface
support, and involved release on foliation and major
cross-joints prompted a further phase of very
detailed numerical modelling to examine the
influence of potential wedges on overall pillar
stability. The modelling work undertaken by Golder


on behalf of CFJV (which used the Examine2D or

, UDEC, Flac and/or Phase2 codes) was
directed towards checking the magnitude of deeper,
heavier reinforcement necessary to ensure stability
for excavation, while the work undertaken by
NIRM on behalf of SJVNs design team
(principally using 3DEC) concentrated on
Chamber stability under operating conditions.
4.1 Initial 2-D modelling assessments
Early phases of Golder Associates modelling
studies for CFJV were targeted at examining
optimum construction sequencing that would
minimize excavation difficulties and assist in
maximizing excavation progress throughout the
benching sequencing (ref. Figures 6a and 6b).
On the basis of these studies, recommendations
were made regarding preferred sequencing. These
modelling studies, which were carried out either in
Examine2D or PHASES concluded that:

sliding failure problems would be more

prevalent in the west (right) walls of each
Chamber, with buckling and delamination
problems more prevalent in the east (left) wall,

zones of the most adverse potential distress

would occur in the west (right) haunch, and in
the vicinity of either side of the desilting drift
(Hopper area),

optimum wall control of benches required presupport of the sidewalls, as foliation dips were
steep enough to allow wedge sliding and/or
fall-outs immediately on excavation, prior
to being able to place sidewall reinforcement,

excavating Chambers 1 and 4 ahead of

Chambers 2 and 3, stress shielded the inner
chambers, thereby minimizing differential
displacements in the pillars between all the
interior chambers.

4.2 Initial 3D sequence modelling

The initial 2D modelling analyses concentrated on
overall excavation sequencing and stress-interaction
effects, but did not specifically examine behaviour
of the individual Chambers to benching. These
analyses were therefore supplemented by specific
3D evaluations aimed at checking intersections and
benching in order to optimize pilot bench drift and
sidewall slash approaches. To achieve this, two
major series of 3D modelling were undertaken
using the Examine3D code, one looking at
intersections, the other examining sequencing
within a single Chamber. Example outputs from the
two series of models are shown in Figure 11.
These modelling studies, which were mainly
undertaken using a multi-chamber configuration for
the 1995 analyses and a single chamber, multistaged sequence for the 1996 analyses, concluded

major interference problems could occur for

many of the intersection areas of the
construction access drifts (Adits 1, 2 and 3)
with the Chambers, with the Adit 2
configuration, potentially being the worst,

minimal adjacent Chamber influence during

benching was achieved by keeping benching
ahead in Chambers 1 and 4, over those in
Chambers 2 and 3, with most adverse
interaction occurring when bench faces
corresponded with the foliation trend, ie,
Chamber 4 leading and Chamber 1 trailing,

optimum bench sequencing was achieved by

excavating from the upstream end to the
downstream end in order to allow early
attention to reinforcement installation in
heavily foliated areas, (ie, ensuring that, in
general, the foliation always would dip out of
the bench face being excavated),

pilot drift development during benching could

be taken up to 25m ahead of the sideslash
excavations for a pilot and slash approach,
behaviour, and


Figure 9a. Normal sidewall chamber conditions in vicinity of Adit 2

Figure 9b. Wedge Geometry in Chamber #2 Sidewall Zone created by foliation &
major cross-jointing (evident downstream of Adit 2)


Figure 10a. Typical Cross-Section of Chambers 3 and 4 showing complex pattern of

cross-jointing and shears in vicinity of Adit 2

Figure 10b.

Typical plan detail of geology of chambers & pillars


Figure 11a. Example of detailed chamber intersection zone 3D modeling

Figure 11b. Example output from Initial 3D modelling for optimizing chamber bench sequencing


potential damage zone depths in weak foliated

rock zones (schists) were double those
predicted to occur within the more competent
gneissic materials.

4.3 Supplementary 2D & 3D modelling

With ongoing movement continuing to cause
cracking and displacement of the SFRS lining and
with the three major sidewall wedge failures having
occurred to depths greater than the, by then,
installed bolting patterns, concerns regarding wall
stability prompted action by all parties to better
understand rock mass behaviour.
This was
achieved by (a) increasing the number of installed
Chamber convergence arrays to improve
displacement monitoring coverage, (b) installing
additional instrumentation principally sidewall
extensometers and load cells) and (c) initiating a
further phase of numerical modelling based on reanalysis of conditions highlighted by improved
geological understanding of the rockmass.
As there appeared to be significant differences
in excavation-related rockmass behaviour along the
Chambers, it was suspected that because of the
steep valley topography (Figure 12a), some of these
differences might relate less to changes in
excavation sequencing and Chamber geometry and
more to changes in insitu stress state with distance
into the mountainside. Accordingly the available
insitu stress measurement data for the Chamber area
(eg., Kumar et al., 2004) was re-evaluated in terms
of ground surface topography, as summarized on
Figure 12b.
Based on topographic surveying of the steep
slopes rising up from the river towards the
mountains, the rock crown cover over the Chambers
was found to vary by more than 400m along their
alignment, as per the following Table:

d/s end
(Adit 3)










u/s end
(Adit 1)


In consequence of these elevation differences,

quite significant changes in insitu stress state across
the geometry of the Chamber complex could be
envisaged. Based on Figure 12b, which presents
best estimate fits to available insitu stress

measurement data, more than a doubling of the

vertical stress to the crown of the Chambers occurs
at the downstream end of each Chamber relative to
the upstream end, with an almost quadrupling of the
horizontal stress as one moves downstream along
the chamber axes.
In addition to these topographically controlled
stress differences across the Chamber complex area,
it was also felt that changes in rockmass stiffness
might also exert some influence, due to some quite
significant changes in fracture density and
orientations along the cavern axes, as identified by
the geological mapping (Figure 10). Modelling for
this phase of evaluation was therefore focussed
more towards use of discrete element codes that
could replicate the actual mapped fracture patterns
rather than just accounting for changes in fracture
intensity by making global modulus alterations in
rockmass properties, as a way to reflect the
mapping information.
In order to model the behaviour of the
Chambers to the date of the onset of cracking of the
SFRS and the fall-out of the three major wedge
failures, a series of 2D section and plan models
were set up in UDEC by Golder and in parallel a 3D
model of the Chamber Complex was built by NIRM
using the 3DEC program code.
As can be
appreciated from examination of the diagrams in
Figure 13, these UDEC models were very complex
and time consuming to run. Because of this
complexity they also needed very careful calibration
to actual conditions in order that any forward
predictive modelling could be considered realistic.
Such calibration was however also not simple. A
two stage approach was therefore taken for
calibrating the discrete element models. First some
overview modelling (in plan and in section) was
carried out using the Phase 2 FEM program code,
specifically so that the data from the convergence
arrays and extensometer installations could be
rapidly tracked backwards over the known
excavation sequence for which instrumented
response data was available. Then the UDEC
sections were time-stepped through the same stress
change sequence as found from the Phase2
responses and Barton-Bandis shear strength
parameters (Barton & Bandis, 1982) for
discontinuity fabrics in the UDEC models adjusted
within realistic ranges until accurate replication of
as-measured convergences was achieved (as shown
in Figures 13 and 14).


Typically it was found that the best data source

for reliable calibration was the detailed
extensometer records (an example of which is
shown in Figure 14). On this diagram the plot
shows the response for the three anchors referenced
to the deepest as datum. A suite of vertical sections
were specifically set up in Phase 2 to model
rockmass behaviour at each extensometer site and
input parameters (stress state, and fracture and
rockmass properties) adjusted in the modelled
sections until good replication was achieved for the
instrumentation data was available. The parameters
so defined were then transferred to the horizontal
section models and further refinement of parameters
completed until predicted convergences matched
observed readings. Figure 14 shows one of the
extensometers in the Chamber 3-4 pillar, on the
Chamber 4 side in response to excavation in
Chamber 4 of Sequences 5 and 6, and then of the
hopper area (Sequence 7). The multi-point borehole
extensometer anchor responses are colour coded,
with the deep zone showing about 2mm, the
intermediate zone about 12mm and the surface zone
about another 10mm response, which then rises to
almost 25mm with excavation of the Hopper zone.
Replication of these responses by Golder in
UDEC and calibration of the overall trends by
NIRM into 3DEC and then carrying out predictive
modelling of the excavation progression to
completion of all of the Chambers, including
considering watering up the Chambers for
operational conditions, indicated that quite
significant further displacements could develop, that
without additional reinforcement, would lead to
significant distress developing in the pillars. The
displacement trends shown in the upper diagram on
Figure 13 give some indication of the type of
fracture-controlled differential displacements that
were seen in all of the UDEC runs. The pattern of
displacements shown indicates that with full
Chamber excavation general relaxation occurs, that
if unrestrained would pose a risk for further

potential unravelling of the blocky rockmass

constituting the pillars, allowing further wedge fallouts.
With the information generated from this
modelling and with continued confirmation from
the convergence arrays and installed extensometers
that movements were still ongoing in the pillars,
and that the trends were closely matching the model
predicted behaviour, SJVNs design team began to
formulate detailed construction working drawings
to add significant support to the pillars to enhance
their stability.


The remedial support arrangements for the interChamber pillars, which were finally adopted with
input from the Panel of Experts and from various
members of the contractors staff, who looked
specifically at constructability issues, are shown in
Figure 15.
This diagram shows the various
configuration, together with the constructed
measures necessary for their installation. The SJVN
design arrangement basically comprised three rows
of overlapping 60T cable anchors into each pillar,
installed through cast-in-place anchor beams, and
supplemented with additional rebar surface support
and additional SFRS to stich together the blocky,
loosened near-surface zone of the rockmass. As
excavation had already proceeded down to
Sequence 4 (el. 1450m) in most of the Chambers
and to Sequence 6 (el. 1445m) in one part of
Chamber 4, and the upper row of anchors was
needed at elevation 1462m, (ie., some 12 to 18m
above the then current Chamber floor levels) a
considerable effort was required to get back up to
the elevation required. In order to overcome the
challenge of casting the beams and installing the
anchors, CFJV came up with the hybrid scheme of
backfill and scaffolding arrangements as shown on
Figure 15.


Figure 12a. Topography at intakes to chambers

Figure 12b. Insitu Stress relationships for Desilting Chamber area with respect to depth below rock surface


Figure 13. UDEC representation of discrete fracture mapping showing predicted and measured displacements

Figure 14. Typical sidewall MPBX behaviour

Figure 15. Benching & final support


5.1 Pillar remedial support

5.2 Anchor arrangements

Once SJVNs design staff authorized re-initiation of

excavation and issued formal instructions to start
work on the beams and anchors, forming the bulk of
the remedial construction works required for the
pillars, plans were put in place to sequentially cast
the required concrete beams, necessitating, in some
of the Chambers, bringing in backfill and erecting
scaffolding according to the schematic shown on
Figure 15. This arrangement was developed by the
contractor as one of many different construction
sequences and execution plans that were explored
with the designer, all aimed at minimizing further
schedule delays and maximizing constructability.
The optimized solution required leap-frogging the
fill in the various Chambers in sequence with
scaffold erection, concrete placement and anchor
drilling and stressing. By the time that all works
were complete to the state shown in the photograph
in Figure 1, the following measures had been

The anchors for the Chamber pillars, which were

generally planned to be spaced at 7.5m c/c along the
beams were selected as four strand 20m long cable
packages with an allowable capacity of 60 tonnes
and an ultimate capacity of 105 tonnes. Each had a
fixed length (anchor zone) of 5m, and a debonded
free-length of 15m. For the installations after
drilling to full depth water-testing was required
prior to grouting in the fixed length, with on-site
agreed procedures adopted for regrouting based on
site conditions and water test results. Each anchor
was then proof tested, and locked off with a prestress of 36 tonnes.

Works Item
Refilling of Chambers with
Installation of 60 T Cable
Placement of 24 @ 525 metre
long concrete beams

92,000m3 (Fill)
1,624 each
12,400 metres long

Installation of Additional
Rock Bolts (6 m to 7.5 m

20,000 each

Installation of Additional
grouted anchor bars

6,000 each

Additional Rock Bolts 12.0 m


4,480 each

Installation of three concrete beams along the

entire length of each side of each Chamber (as
pictured in Figure 1) was seen as the most expedient
means for a) providing sufficient bearing area for
anchor stressing for each anchor, whilst also
providing a good measure of surface restraint and
integral fixing along the Chamber axes.



The scheme, the largest in India at 1,500 MW, has

been generating power now for almost five years
with the Desilting Complex Chamber excavations
and ancillary tunnels providing their designed role.
In spite of so many rock-related problems requiring
significant engineering input, the Desilting
Complex, comprising four Chambers over 500m
long, 16m wide, approximately 30m high and only
at 45m centre to centre has been completed to the
original hydraulically designed shapes. Execution
of the final works has not been without challenges
however, and the final arrangements have really
only been accomplished through the cooperation
and integration of important ideas put forward by
many parties, and then engineered to detailed design
level only as part of the construction works. The
overall final arrangements now comprise several
support elements not foreseen in the original tender
design drawings. Whether layout re-arrangements
(spacing, orientation etc) of the Chambers or
different surface and deep rock support
arrangements incorporated into the tender layouts
could have eliminated or reduced the problems
encountered in properly stabilizing the weak
foliated rockmass is a moot point. The design layout
as tendered has been completed, but only by placing
three pairs of concrete beams and hundreds of
60tonne cable anchors and thousands of square
metres of steel fibre reinforcement over the pillar
zone rock mass in each Chamber, suggesting to
future generations of designers that hydraulics
should not necessarily dominate early design
decisions, especially in a Himalayan setting.


Paris, 1999, Vol. 1, pp. 359-360. Rotterdam:


The views expressed in this paper reflect the
opinions of the authors and may not reflect those
corporately held by the various organizations
involved in the construction of the Nathpa Jhakri
scheme. Acknowledgements are due to many
individuals in the various organizations involved in
the project whose views and insight have helped
formulate the thoughts expressed in this paper.


Grimstad, E and Barton, N. (1995) Rock Mass

Classification and the Use of NMT in India. Proc.
Int. Conf. On Design and Construction of
Underground Structures, New Delhi, India.


Hoek, E (1999) Putting numbers to geologyan

engineer's viewpoint. Q. Jnl Eng. Geol. &
Hydrogeol. vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 1-19(19)


Hoek, E., (2000) Big Tunnels in Bad Rock, The

Terzaghi lecture presented at the ASCE Civil
Engineering Conf., Seattle, Oct 18-21, 2000







Bagde, M.N., (2000) Finite element analysis of

underground caverns of Nathpa Jhakri Hydel Project.
Proc. Int.Conf. Tunnelling Asia 2000 544 pp
Barton, N.R. & Bandis S., (1982). The Shear
Behaviour of Jointed Rock. Issues in Rock
Mechanics, 23rd US Symposium on Rock Mechanics,
Barton, N., Lien, R. and Lunde, J. (1977) Estimating
Support Requirements for Underground Excavations,
in Design methods in Rock Mechanics. Proc. 16th
US Sump. On Rock Mechanics, Minneapolis, USA,
Bieniawski, Z.T. (1976). Rock mass classification in
rock engineering. In Bieniawski (ed.), Proc. of the
Symp. Explo-ration for Rock Engineering, Vol. 1:
pp.97-106. Cape Town. Balkema.
Carter, T.G., Steels, D., Dhillon, H.S. and Brophy,
D., (2005). Difficulties of Tunnelling under High
Cover in Mountainous Regions. Proc. Int. AFTES
Congress, Tunnelling for a Sustainable Europe,
Chambery, pp.349-358
Dasgupta, B., R. Singh and V. M. Sharma. (1999)
"Numerical Modelling of Desilting Chambers for
Nathpa Jhakri Hydroelectric Project," in Proceedings
of the 9th ISRM Congress on Rock Mechanics.

10. Hoek, E. and Marinos, P. (2000). Predicting Tunnel

Squeezing. Tunnels and Tunnelling International,
Part 1 November 2000, Part 2 December.
11. Kumar, R and Dhawan, A. K., (1999). Geotechnical
Investigations of Nathpa Jhakri Hydro Electric
Project. Proc. Workshop on Rock Mechanics &
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12. Kumar, N., Varughese, A., Kapoor, V.K., Dhawan
A.K. (2004) In Situ Stress Measurement and its
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13. Mahajan, S., (2000) Practical application of steel
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geologically friendly tool for rock mass strength
Melbourne: 1422-1442



currently responsible for overseeing the execution of all

heavy civil projects under Aecon Constructors.

Dr. Trevor G. Carter is a Principal with

Golder Associates in Canada. He is
also a specialist geological engineer
with world-wide experience in
unravelling difficult and complex rock
conditions for design of heavy civil or
mining projects. He has over 30 years
of experience relating to engineering
geological and rock mechanics aspects of tunnelling and
civil and mining underground design and construction.
Dr. Carter has worked with Golder Associates since 1976
and after spending 4 years on the construction and design
aspects of the 1000MW Drakensberg Pumped Storage
Scheme in South Africa, has mainly been involved with
solving geomechanics problems of large scale surface or
underground excavations for mining or civil engineering
applications. Throughout his career he has remained
involved with hydropower projects worldwide, most
recently in India as a specialist review consultant on rock
mechanics aspects of the underground chambers and
tunnel construction works for the 1500MW Nathpa Jhakri
Scheme in India. He is currently serving on a review board
for two similar power schemes in Chile.
Mike Kenny graduated from the
University of Manitoba Canada with a
B.Sc. in Civil Engineering in 1968 and
is a licensed professional engineer in
the Canadian provinces of Ontario and
British Columbia.
He has been
employed by the Foundation Company
of Canada Division of Aecon
Constructors for 25 years and is currently Vice President.
Mr. Kenny was involved for 7 years at the jobsite for the
companys Nathpa Jhakri projects with the last 4 years as
Project Manager, where he was responsible for overseeing
all aspects of the construction works for the Dam, the
Desilting Chambers and several km of associated tunnels.
Don Brophy joined Aecon in 1977
after graduating from the University of
Ottawa with a Bachelor of Applied
Science degree in Civil Engineering.
He has held the positions of Project
Engineer, Project Manager, Contracts
Manager and Estimating Manager.
Don has extensive experience as
Senior Estimator, bidding heavy civil construction projects
in the domestic market as well as internationally.
He has worked on major projects such as the Highway 407
Express toll Route (407ETR) and the Toronto Airport
Terminal Development projects in Canada, and the Nathpa
Jhakri Hydroelectric Power project in India. Don is

Dr. Jos L. Carvalho Joe Carvalho

graduated in Civil Engineering from
the University of Toronto in 1982 and
currently is a Principal with Golder
Associates Ltd. in Mississauga,
He has over 20 years
experience in heavy civil engineering
and mining projects with extensive
capability in detailed rock mechanics analysis and
numerical modelling; with particular experience also in
coding instrumentation and monitoring databases.
Dr. Carvalho has been involved in application of advanced
numerical methods for numerous applications related to
open pits, underground mine excavations, underground
hydroelectric caverns, utility and transportation tunnels
and foundation projects. Dr. Carvalho was responsible for
the numerical analyses of several aspects of the Nathpa
Jhakri Hydro-electric project in India.
Doug Steels is President of Aecon
Constructors and also manages
Aecon's interests on Joint Venture
projects as Board member of the
Executive Management Committee.
Mr. Steels' 35-year construction and
engineering career with Aecon started
as a Field Engineer on the massive St.
Lawrence Seaway, Welland Canal
Relocation project. His unique combination of practical
skills and management capabilities were developed on
Aecon heavy civil construction projects as diverse as
British Columbia's Revelstoke Dam and Mount
MacDonald Railway Tunnel, India's Nathpa Jhakri
Hydroelectric project and the Cross Israel Toll Highway
Prior to his appointment as President of Aecon
Constructors, Mr. Steels held roles of increasing
management responsibility in Aecon's corporate office,
including the positions of Chief Estimator and most
recently as Senior Vice President. Mr. Steels holds a
Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the
University of Windsor.
Harjit Dhillon began his heavy
construction career in North America
working for the Perini Corporation out
of Framingham, Massachusetts.
joined Aecon Construction Group Inc in
1963 as Chief Engineer for The
Foundation Company of Canada,
Aecons wholly owned subsidiary.
Throughout his years with Foundation,
and eventually in the position of President of The


Foundation Company, Harjit was in charge of many of

Aecons largest and most complex joint venture projects,
with special emphasis on hydroelectric developments and
their related underground civil construction works.
Some of the more noteworthy projects included the
Revelstoke Dam and Powerhouse for British Columbia
Hydro and the Jenpeg, Longspruce, and Kettle Rapids
power projects for Manitoba Hydro. Most recently, Harjit
completed the Nathpa Jhakri Hydroelectric project in
Northern India, a $640 million Aecon sponsored Joint

Mark Telesnicki graduated in

Geological Engineering from the
University of Waterloo in 1987.and
has over 20 years experience in heavy
civil engineering and mining projects,
particularly focusing on geotechnical
analysis and design; instrumentation
and monitoring; and preparation of construction
specifications and drawings. He is currently a Principal
with Golder Associates Ltd. and Manager of the Rock
Engineering Group in Mississauga, Ontario. Throughout
his career, he has been involved with underground
hydroelectric schemes, several utility and transportation
tunnels, and numerous rock slope stabilization and
foundation projects. Mr. Telesnicki spent just over a year
on site at the Nathpa Jhakri Hydro-electric project in India
where he was heavily involved in all the early aspects of
the construction works for the Desilting Chambers and
appurtenant tunnels.