At a young age, Prof. (Dr.) Bhubaneswar Behera, the noted engineer and scientist from Odisha and founder-principal of the National Institute of Technology Rourkela, visualised the generation of hydropower and a regular supply of water for irrigation if the waters of Indravati river were diverted to Hati river to create an artificial waterfall from a height of some 2,000 ft. He prepared a project report and presented it to the maharaja who, apparently, liked the scheme very much.
Prof. Behera was born on January 1, 1916, in Kashibahal village in the then princely state of Kalahandi, now a district in Odisha. He passed matriculation in 1935, did his B.Sc. (Hons) in Physics from Ravenshaw College, Cuttack, in 1939, and obtained B.Sc. (Engineering) Hons. degree in civil engineering in 1943 from Bihar College of Engineering in Patna. After working in the works department of Odisha government, the irrigation department of the then princely state of Mysore, where he was involved in the Jog hydropower project, Prof. Begera was given special charge of irrigation in Kalahandi in 1945.
It was during his tenure under the Kalahandi Durbar in 1945-46 that Prof. Behera examined the hilly plateau region of Thuamul (Rampur) and came up with a proposal to construct a hydraulic project in river Indravati for irrigation and power. Thus, the present-day Indravati project can be said to be the brainchild of Prof. Behera.
The Government of India recognised Prof. Behera’s engineering skills by selecting him as the ‘Post War Reconstruction Scholar’ for higher studies abroad. He studied hydraulics and fluid mechanics in Iowa State University, USA, did his Master thesis on ‘A Length Criterion of Hydraulic Jump’ under Prof. C.J. Posey, and was trained in model studies and dam construction at Denver, Colorado, and project planning under Tennessee Valley Authority.
In July 1947, Prof. Behera returned to India and joined the then Kalahandi government as irrigation engineer. Following the merger of princely states in 1948, he was sent on deputation to Hirakud Dam Project where he worked till 1956. In subsequent years, Prof. Behera was associated with Utkal University, Regional Engineering College, Rourkela, and Sambalpur University. He was honoured with several other awards during his lifetime including ‘Senior Engineer’ of Odisha on the occasion of 50th anniversary of independence in 1998.