Dr. Awtar Singh, son of a contractor-cum-brick kiln owner, is the only surviving member of the core Bhakra-Nangal dam team of 1951. Born in 1927 at Lyallpur (now Faisalabad in Pakistan), Awtar Singh did his civil engineering in 1949 from Punjab Engineering College, Roorkee. Singh started his career in 1951 as an assistant engineer with Punjab Irrigation Department.
Those were the early days of nation building and Bhakra-Nangal Multi Purpose dam project was planed. Then the government was looking out for best engineering talent in the country to carry out this mammoth task. And young Awtar Singh was one of those talented engineers chosen for the task and was sent to America for training. After visiting various power houses in America for six months, Singh came back to India along with other colleagues to work on the prestigious dam project. Bhakra dam (a concrete gravity dam) was completed in 1961. The dam is Asia’s second tallest at 225.55 m (740 ft) high next to the 261m Tehri Dam. Its reservoir, known as the “Gobind Sagar”, stores up to 9.34 billion cubic meters of water and is spread over an area of 168.35 square km.
After rising too soon and too fast in his career graph, young Awtar Singh could not find enough opportunities coming in his way in India which was in a nascent stage of development. So he decided to shift to USA in 1962 where he did his master’s degree from Colorado University. Later he did his PhD at Berkeley. For sometime he worked as a professor in University of California in Los Angeles. In 1972 he, in partnership with a friend, set up Lockwood-Singh Associates to provide specialised services in soil and geology.
Over the years Singh has developed specialty in performing autopsy on damaged properties. Awtar Singh who is still active, today devotes much of his time to philanthropy.