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Samanala Dam

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Samanala Dam

Upstream view of the dam.

Location of Samanala Dam

Country Sri Lanka

Location Balangoda

Coordinates 064048N 804754E6.68000N 80.79833E

Purpose Power

Status Operational

Construction began 1986

Opening date 1992

Construction cost 74,313 million

Dam and spillways

Type of dam Embankment dam

Impounds Walawe River

Length 530 m (1,739 ft)

Height (foundation) 110 m (361 ft)

Spillway capacity 3,600 m3/s (130,000 cu ft/s)


Creates Samanala Reservoir

Total capacity 218,000,000 m3 (7.7109 cu ft)

Catchment area 372 km2 (144 sq mi)

Power station

Operator(s) Ceylon Electricity Board

Turbines 2 62 MW
Installed capacity 124 MW

Annual generation 405 GWh

The Samanala Dam is a dam that is primarily used for hydroelectric power generation in Sri
Lanka. Commissioned in 1992, the Samanalawewa Project (Samanala Reservoir Project) is the
second-largest hydroelectric scheme in the country, producing 405 GWh of energy annually. It
was built with financial support from Japan and the United Kingdom. It is notable for a large
leak on its right bank. Power production continues as planned despite the leakage, and the water
from the leak now provides two thirds of the water issued by the reservoir for agriculture in
downstream areas.


1 Location

2 Background and development

3 Dam, reservoir and the power station

4 Leak

5 Impact

6 See also

7 References

The Samanala Dam is located in the Uda Walawe basin.[1] It was built at the confluence of the
Walawe river and the Belihul Oya, a location 400 metres (1,300 ft) above mean sea level.[2] It is
near the town of Balangoda and 160 kilometres (99 mi) southeast of Colombo, the capital. The
ground of the project area is karstic.[3]

Background and development[edit]

With the Mahaweli and Laxapana hydroelectric power projects implemented, the demand for
electricity in Sri Lanka rapidly increased. When it became clear that it would not be possible to
meet the demand with coal-fired power plants, the government of Sri Lanka decided to initiate
another hydroelectric power project. A reservoir type hydroelectric power plant was planned to
be constructed across the Walawe river, which would address the shortage of electricity in the
country.[4] Detailed investigations for a hydroelectric power plant in this area have been carried
out since 1958, but the scheme was initiated only in 1986.[3] The financing for the project was
given by the governments of Japan and the United Kingdom.[5]

Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners did the design work and Balfour Beatty were the contracts to lay
roads, drive a tunnel and build the power station.[6]

The cost of the project was estimated to be 60,176 million yen, but with the remedial measures
taken to control the leak, the cost increased to 74,313 million yen.[4] The Samanalawewa power
plant was commissioned in 1992.[7] The Samanalawewa project is the second largest
hydroelectric scheme in Sri Lanka after the Mahaweli project.[5]

Dam, reservoir and the power station[edit]

The dam and spillway, as seen from the top of the dam.

The Samanala Dam is 110 metres (360 ft) in height[8] and has a length of 530 metres (1,740 ft) at
crest level. The volume of the dam is about 4,500,000 cubic metres (160,000,000 cu ft). Rainfall
in the area has an annual average of 2,867 millimetres (112.9 in), and the catchment area is 372
square kilometres (144 sq mi).[5] The dam is of rock fill, central earth core type. The spillway of
the dam has three gates, each 14 metres (46 ft) high and 11 metres (36 ft) wide. It can discharge
water at a rate of 3,600 cubic metres (130,000 cu ft) per second. Its tunnel is 4.5 metres (15 ft) in
diameter and 5,159 metres (16,926 ft) in length.[3]

The reservoir created by the dam has a total live storage capacity of 218,000,000 cubic metres
(7.7109 cu ft). Its gross storage capacity is 278,000,000 cubic metres (9.8109 cu ft), of which
60,000,000 cubic metres (2.1109 cu ft) is dead storage. The reservoir's full supply level is 460
metres (1,510 ft) above main sea level, and the reservoir spreads 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) upstream
at this level. The reservoir is u-shaped.[5] It covers an area of 897 ha. However, with the water
leakage the water level was reduced to 430 metres (1,410 ft).[2] It is one of the largest reservoirs
in Sri Lanka.[3]

The power house contains two Francis turbines, each with a capacity of 62 MW,[8] and generates
405 GWh of energy annually.[3] The powerplant is managed by the Ceylon Electricity Board.[1]

The leak from the Samanala Dam.

A permeable area of ground was found during the construction of the dam in 1988. Curtain
grouting was used in an effort to remedy this.[4] However, as the reservoir was being filled, a
large leak occurred on the side of the right bank, about 300 metres (980 ft) downstream from the
dam, causing a landslip.[2] Subsequent measures taken to control the leakage were largely
ineffective. The leakage of approximately 1,800 litres (400 imp gal) per second continues, but
has not affected power production at the plant, which has been in full operation since its
commissioning in 1992.[3][5]

The leak is constantly monitored. If the leak remains stable and does not increase further, it does
not pose a threat to the sustainability of the project.[9] The karstic ground has created complex
geological conditions, and as a result the exact mechanism of the leak cannot be established, so
remedial measures have been unsuccessful.[10]

The project was planned as a single purpose hydropower project. Therefore the effects on the
agriculture and the environment of the area were taken into consideration very little during the
development. Although an irrigational release valve (IRV) is there in the dam to supply water to
the farmlands in the downstream areas, the yield and cultivable acreage has declined since the
Samanalawewa project was commissioned.[9]

However, the necessity to constantly release water for agriculture in the downstream areas was
reduced due to the leak. Of the water released from the Samanala Dam for agriculture in the
downstream areas, two-thirds is from the leak and only one-third has to be supplied via the IRV.

See also[edit]