The Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS), Pune, which began in a humble way in 1916 as a Special Irrigation Division of the then Bombay Presidency, is today an institution of international standing. At its inception, the institution was located at Hadapsar, on the banks of Mutha Right Bank Canal that originated from the then Lake Fife, the reservoir formed by Khadakwasla dam.
At the turn of the century, the then Bombay Province was faced with diverse problems of irrigation, ranging from the alluvial rivers in Sind in the North to the black cotton soils in the Deccan Plateau overlying disintegrated basalt. While attempting to transfer the north Indian experience with irrigation canal systems to the Deccan plateau, major difficulties were experienced due to the different crops grown in the two areas, and the rainfall pattern that happened to be much different in both the regions. The introduction of irrigation in the Deccan plateau resulted in deterioration of the land quality in the served areas mainly due to water logging and sodium efflorescence. The institute took up the first hydrodynamic problem in 1919, when it was recognised that the Deccan channels that carried varying discharges over the year needed special-purpose outlet devices, different from those used in north India where the irrigation canals remained at full supply levels throughout the year.
The early experiments conducted with hydraulic models led to studies on river and canal hydrodynamics, which by 1928 became the major activity of the institution. Studies conducted at the institute, in the post World War I period, for silt exclusion from canals at Sukkur barrage on Indus river, and protection of bridges at Hardinge on Ganga and Kolaghat on Rupnarain, proved the importance of a hydrodynamic research station in comprehending the shifting tendency of alluvial rivers and determining protection and training measures.
In the early years of formation only, the authorities at the institution recognised that basic research needed to be essential for successful research activities at the institution. By 1935, the research activities far outgrew the infrastructure available at the Hadapsar site. Substantial research works/ modelling studies were relocated to Khadakwasla, about 15 km to the southwest of the Poona city, where water was available, in adequate quantity, throughout the year for the hydraulic model studies. Initially, the hydraulic laboratory at Khadakwasla occupied an area of about 14 ha adjoining the Khadakwasla dam.
The Government of India (GoI), in consultation with the provincial governments, established the Central Board of Irrigation in 1928 as a coordinating body on technical and research matters. Hydraulic research laboratories were set up in some provinces, and it was felt necessary to have a central government institution for the whole of India where the facilities could be upgraded to provide advice not only to the irrigation departments but also to the Railway Board, Port Authorities and other public agencies that may need advice in the field of hydrodynamics. GoI decided to locate the central research station at Poona; with a consequential decision to rename the institution to Hydrodynamic Research Station in 1928, and subsequently in 1937 to the Central Irrigation and Hydrodynamic Research Station.
In 1944, the name of the institute was changed to Indian Waterways Experiment Station; reflecting the shifts in the mandate of the institution to cater to the changing research needs of the country in that era. Subsequently, in February 1945, GoI set up the Central Waterways, Irrigation and Navigation Commission, which recommended enlarging and expanding of the Indian Waterways Experiment Station to enable it to tackle varied technological issues/ problems related to multipurpose river valley projects that were coming in larger numbers up at that time.
River valley development became the catchword for all-round development in the post independence years, with emphasis on maritime communications, establishment of new ports and improvement of existing ones and coastal protection. To reflect the renewed mandate and activities, the institution was renamed in 1947 as the Central Waterways, Irrigation and Navigation Research Station. Moreover, under a reorganisation scheme implemented in May 1947, new laboratories such as River & Canal Hydraulics, Mathematics, Statistics, Soils & Soil Mechanics, Concrete & Materials of Construction, Physics and Chemistry were added. In 1949, to reflect the enhanced sphere of activities of the research station, the Government changed the name of the research station to the Central Water Power, Irrigation and Navigation Research Station; and subsequently in 1951 to the Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS), the name with which the institution is known today.
The growth and development of CWPRS has been inextricably linked with the development of the nation in the areas of water and energy resources development and water borne transport. After independence, a number of irrigation and hydropower development works with increasingly higher heads were taken up. There was urgent need to evolve designs of hydraulic structures such as dams, spillways, gates and valves, and hydraulic machines and equipment that are economical and cavitation-free. The Cavitation Research Centre, with its modern multi-test water tunnel at CWPRS, opened up a new vista in the field of hydraulic research in India. CWPRS has achieved remarkable expertise in handling studies concerning hydraulic and structural design of river valley projects. It is pertinent to mention that studies, which had to be entrusted to advanced foreign laboratories at the time of independence, are now being tackled by CWPRS, including those referred by other countries.
The rapid expansion of international trade, particularly of bulk cargoes, in the 1960's led to the development of a number of ports and harbours throughout the country. It was only natural that CWPRS should be called upon to lend its expertise in this field as well. Beginning with Hooghly, Kandla and Cochin harbour models, the CWPRS has been closely associated with the development of all the major ports in the country and practically all the intermediate and fishing harbours. The institution has made significant contributions to the development of the Singapore Port through a 20-year contract, by conducting as many as 55 different studies on a hydraulic model.
The steady industrialization of the country led to a power crisis in the 1970's, which required that the generation of power be increased. Though India possesses large hydro potential, the country has not been possible to tap all available resources owing to various reasons including environmental concerns and long gestation period of hydropower projects. This naturally led to emphasis being placed on thermal power, which in turn called for intricate studies of thermal dispersion and stratification for prevention of re-circulation of cooling water towards the intake. CWPRS also provided total engineering back up to Central Electricity Authority for the design of a tidal power station in the Gulf of Kachchh through its multidisciplinary expertise in the fields of hydraulic investigations for determining the tidal regime, closure methods, geotechnical and geophysical aspects, site specific seismicity and seismic design, liquefaction potential and environmental impact in an integrated manner.
One of the consequences of industrial and economic advancement is an increase in the levels of pollution in air, water and land. CWPRS has been entrusted by several agencies with studies relating to dispersal of pollutants, the dispersal of which follows the laws of hydrodynamics. Further, complicated designs due to unusual site conditions, changes in design concepts, necessity of integrating conduit systems of neighbouring hydroelectric projects and the like resulted in the need to build structural models and for solving such problems by adopting 3-dimensional photoelastic techniques. Proper assessment of stress distribution under dynamic conditions is made feasible due to techniques of mathematical modelling using finite element methods.
As a result of the concerted efforts made in the post-independence era for exploitation of water resources for irrigation and hydropower needs, convenient sites for dams and other hydraulic structures have already been utilized. Greater innovation was therefore necessary in solving problems posed by the more difficult sites. It was also necessary to ascertain that the design of structures was adequate for stresses caused by forces due to vibrations and earthquakes. Techniques were also evolved to reinforce the existing structures against such stresses. CWPRS hence entered into new fields of investigations such as Hydrogeology, Tracer Hydrology, Vibration Technology, Earthquake Engineering and Geophysics.
With the diversification of the activities of CWPRS, the provision of instrumentation facilities for sophisticated measurements on models were enhanced with UNDP aid. Great emphasis was placed on increasing the precision, and developing real time data acquisition, analysis and control systems to meet the requirement of measurement of a large number of parameters concurrently at several locations in hydraulic models.
With the advent of digital computers, the mathematical modelling techniques opened up new vistas in the field of hydraulic research. As larger and faster computers became available, mathematical modelling promised to be capable of resolving problems of increasingly greater complexity. With the UNDP aid, a full-fledged centre was set up with state-of-the-art computers and application software in the fields of river morphology, waves and tides, environmental hydraulics, design and construction of dams, tunnels, underground openings, etc.
One of the major objectives of the CWPRS has been to develop a state-of-the-art technology centre to enable the solution of complex water resources problems in the country. To this end, CWPRS has set up laboratories in the following disciplines:
- River Engineering
- River and Reservoir System Modelling
- Coastal and Offshore Engineering
- Foundation and Structures
- Applied Earth Sciences
- Reservoir and Appurtenant Structure
- Instrumentation Calibration and Testing Services
The unwritten mandate of CWPRS that evolved in the early years to serve the applied research requirements of the water resources sector in the country, and to carry out such fundamental research as may be necessary therefore, continued to be the natural goal of the institution until 1990, when a formal mandate of the institution was drafted by the Governing Council. In addition to carrying out fundamental and applied research and rendering consultancy advice in the area covering the entire life cycle of water from its origin to joining the sea, CWPRS is now called upon to widen its activities by disseminating the research findings and building up of technical data base in water resources and more importantly, organizing and assisting research activities in State and other institutions concerned with water resources, and carrying out training of research manpower.
The principal functions of CWPRS encompass:
- Planning, organizing and undertaking specific research studies to evaluate, alter, modify or redesign the proposals and/ or to redefine the objectives therein relating to all phases of water resources development including water-borne transport, environmental aspects with particular emphasis on the requirements of hydraulic systems and the structures associated therewith
- Carrying out basic or fundamental research necessary to support its specific/ applied research and/ or aimed at furtherance of knowledge relevant to the Science and Technology Plans/ Objectives of the Country and thus to advance the frontiers of knowledge pertaining to water resources and related sciences
- Rendering consultancy and/ or advisory services to the Central and State Governments as may be called upon from time to time
- Disseminating research findings and building up of a technical data base in water resources
- Promoting/ assisting research activities in states and other institutions concerned with water resources as the premier national organization in the area of research associated with water resources development and carrying out training of research manpower.
The institution is the recognised regional laboratory for the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific since 1971. CWPRS has rendered services for a number of projects from neighbouring, Middle East and African countries.
Two High Level Committees - one during 1976-77 under the chairmanship of Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, Director General (ICAR) and the other during 1998-99 under Dr. S. Narasimhan, Professor Emeritus, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai - reviewed the working of CWPRS and made recommendations regarding its development and management. Implementation of the recommendations of the committees such as introduction of the flexible complementing scheme, setting up of the Governing Council and bringing of the organisation under the direct control of the Ministry of Water Resources led to improving the effectiveness of the institution.
CWPRS has grown during the past nine decades to an institution of international standing; and is one of the few institutions of its kind in the world, dealing with the entire life cycle of water, from its occurrence to joining the ocean and dealing with various uses of water on the one hand and water-related disasters on the other. Water management scenario of today is centred on sustainable development and environmental issues, and this paradigm shift is reflected in the present-day activities of CWPRS. CWPRS today is totally devoted to service of the nation through research, which also happens to be the motto of the institution.