- Mention the reasons for dam safety regulations.
- Pointwise discuss the salient features of the Bill/Act.
Recently, the Rajya Sabha has passed the landmark Dam Safety Bill, 2019 paving the way for the enactment of the Dam Safety Act in the country. The Bill was earlier passed in the Lok Sabha in 2019.
Need for Dam Safety Act : At present, India is the 3rd largest dam-owning nation in the world, after China and USA. There are around 5,700 large dams, of which about 80% are already over 25 years old. Nearly 227 dams that are over 100 years old are still functional. There have been well over 40 grave dam failures on record, the latest being the Rishiganga dam in Uttarakhand.
The Central Water Commission, through the National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS), Central Dam Safety Organization (CDSO) and State Dam Safety Organizations (SDSO) has been making constant endeavours to protect the dams. But they do not have any statutory powers and their suggestions are only advisory in nature. Dams have played a key role in fostering rapid and sustained agricultural growth and development in India. So, there has been a long-felt need for a uniform law and administrative structure for ensuring dam safety.
Most of the older dams, being non-concrete structures made of mud & other locally available materials, are susceptible to breaches, especially due to excessive rainfall, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. Increase in the frequency of extreme weather events as a consequence of climate change has worsened the threat to these dams.
Salient features of the Act:
- It seeks to assist the states in adopting uniform dam safety procedures involving regular surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of all dams more than 15 metres in height.
- National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS): It will be constituted to help evolve uniform dam safety policies, protocols, and procedures. The committee will be chaired by the Chairperson, Central Water Commission.
- National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) : It will be a regulatory body for ensuring the nationwide implementation of dam safety policies and standards.
- State Committees on Dams: At the State level, the Act prescribes for the constitution of State Committees on Dam Safety (SCDS) and State Dam Safety Organizations (SDSO). These bodies will be responsible for the surveillance, inspection and monitoring of the operation and maintenance of dams within their jurisdiction.
- Dam Safety Units: The Act provides for the constitution of dam safety units to inspect the structures before and after the monsoon; after earthquakes, floods, and other calamities; and on the appearance of any signs of distress. These units would also be responsible for carrying out risk assessment studies and preparing emergency action plans in consultation with technical experts.
- Hazard classification: The Bill provides for regular inspection and hazard classification of dams. It also provides for drawing up emergency action plans and comprehensive dam safety reviews by an independent panel of experts. There is provision for an emergency flood warning system to address the safety concerns of downstream inhabitants.
- Obligation of Dam Owners: Dam owners are required to provide resources for timely repair and maintenance of the dam structure along with related machinery.
- Penal Provisions: The Act has penal provisions for ensuring compliance with the provisions.