SOS rescue mission saves
S Rengasamy, Project Manager of Srinivasa Setu Project, takes Chandrika Sen through the 72 hours of repairs at Rayalacheruvu reservoir during the torrential rains in southern India, in November 2021. The team went beyond their call of duty to undertake this task, saving nearly 15,000 lives.
“November 22… must have been around 6pm. It had been pouring down across South India for the past few days. My phone rang. Municipal Commissioner PS Girisha was on the line, and he had a grim situation to explain,” recalls S Rengasamy, Project Manager, Srinivasa Setu Project.
The urgent matter at hand was the gigantic ancient reservoir, Rayalacheruvu, the lifeline of thousands across Chittoor district. Torrential rains had weakened the 500-year-old reservoir, sending panic waves across villages surrounding it. “Mr Girisha informed the reservoir had begun leaking, threatening to breach any moment. He broached the topic of undertaking repairs immediately.”
At 11pm, District Collector Mr Harinarayanan requested the Afcons team to take up the strengthening works. “The administration trusted Afcons with this critical task, and we had to get it right. My only request was to review the situation to help build a game plan. Taking up the SOS rescue mission also meant going above and beyond our defined scope of work on Srinivasa Setu. The two had to be juggled,” added Rengasamy.
Early next morning, the team undertook a brisk assessment to discover major breaches. The dam bund was a ticking time bomb. As if incessant rains weren’t enough, locals were terrified by this impending doom. “If something untoward were to happen, 30 villages and 15,000 people could be affected,” he says.
Manpower and machinery were mobilised by 9am, the same day. The first hurdle was getting the huge machinery to the dam site along a narrow winding road, 20kms from Tirupati. “We used a trailer to transport an Ex-200 excavator, while a JCB was set in motion to get the road ready. Despite best efforts, it took 12 hours to get to the site,” the PM added.
The next step was building a 150m approach road for the heavy machinery, which included 1 huge excavator, 2 small ones, 1 groove crane, 2 TMC and a camper. A crew of 50 carried out this life-saving task.
“We adopted shoring methodology to plug the breaches and strengthen the bund. Water, which was gushing out continuously, was collected in a catchment area using PVC and Hume pipes. Weakened areas were filled with gravel, boulders and sandbags in layers using a crane on top of the bund and then secured with wire mesh and Indian Standard Medium Beams. Gabion wall was constructed to prevent slippage. Finally, the area was filled with soil and gravel. The team fought a 72-hour battle in the pouring rain and gusty winds, and won,” he explained.
Rengasamy credits his team for achieving the impossible. “Only the lion-hearted can go beyond their call of duty and battle against nature to save lives. We consider ourselves fortunate to be able undertake such a task in our lifetime,” he concludes with a smile.
The Rescue Team
• S Rengasamy, Project Manager
• Hari Babu, Manager
• Hari Krishna, Manager
• Rajesh Yavarna, Engineer
• Prasad G, Engineer
• K Ramesh, Supervisor
• Ramesh Swain, Supervisor
• Pratap Reddy, Safety
• Jittu Singh, Supervisor
• K.J. Ramalingam, Administration
• Sekhar Reddy, Operator
• Uttam Kumar Majji, Safety
• Kodeeswaran, Safety