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Safety of Aging Dams in the Country

Focus: GS III: Infrastructure

Why in News?

As per the National Register of Large (Specified) Dams, 2023 compiled by the National Dam Safety Authority, there are 234 number of large dams in India, which are more than 100 years old.

Overview of Indian Dams

  • Total Dams: India boasts a considerable number of dams, with a total of 5,745 dams in its territory.
  • Completed and Under Construction: Among these, 5,334 dams have been completed, while an additional 411 dams are currently under construction.
  • Global Ranking: India holds the impressive rank of third globally in terms of its extensive efforts in constructing large dams.
  • Tehri Dam: Among the notable dams, the Tehri Dam stands out. Located in Uttarakhand, it secures the title of being the tallest dam in India. This imposing structure is situated on the Bhagirathi River.
  • Hirakud Dam: The Hirakud Dam, situated on the Mahanadi River in Odisha, takes the distinction of being the longest dam in India.
  • Oldest Dam: The Kallanai Dam, which spans the Kaveri River in Tamil Nadu, holds the honor of being the oldest dam in India. With a history spanning around 2000 years, it showcases the enduring engineering prowess of ancient India.

Challenges in Dam Safety and Water Resource Management

  • Seismic Vulnerability: Many regions in India are prone to seismic activity, raising concerns about potential earthquakes affecting the stability of dams.
  • Soil and Geological Conditions: Unstable soil quality and geological conditions in certain areas create obstacles in ensuring dam safety.
  • Aging Infrastructure: Numerous dams in India are aging and may not meet modern safety standards. Ensuring maintenance and rehabilitation of these structures is crucial to prevent failures.
  • Climate Change Impact: Changing climate patterns and increased extreme weather events, such as heavy rainfall and floods, strain dams and reservoirs, leading to overtopping or potential failure.
  • Transboundary Rivers: Shared rivers with neighboring states or countries require collaborative efforts for dam safety and water management. Disputes and lack of cooperation can hinder effective dam management.
  • Communication and Emergency Preparedness: Establishing communication networks, evacuation plans, and emergency shelters near dams is essential to manage potential disasters.
  • Community Displacement: Construction or operation of dams often necessitates the displacement of local communities, highlighting challenges in ensuring proper resettlement and rehabilitation.

Initiatives for Dam Safety and Water Resource Management in India

Enactment of the Dam Safety Act, 2021:

  • Introduced by the Union Government to address dam safety concerns.
  • Emphasizes surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of specific dams.
  • Goal is to prevent dam failure disasters and establish a safe operational framework.

National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS):

  • Establishment of a national-level committee dedicated to dam safety.
  • Responsible for shaping dam safety policies and suggesting essential regulations.
  • Acts as a central platform to ensure consistent safety standards.

National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA):

  • Creation of a regulatory body, the NDSA, to oversee dam safety.
  • Tasked with implementing policies set by the National Committee on Dam Safety.
  • Provides technical support to State Dam Safety Organizations (SDSO) and resolves inter-state disputes.

Empowerment of State Governments:

  • State Governments empowered to form State Committee on Dam Safety.
  • Establishment of State Dam Safety Organizations to enforce safety standards.
  • Offers essential guidance to dam owners on safety protocols and necessary corrective measures.

National Hydrology Project (NHP):

  • Comprises four main components: Water Resources Monitoring System, Water Resources Information System, Water Resources Operations and Planning System, and Institutional Capacity Enhancement.
  • Aims to enhance water resource management capabilities across the nation.
  • Supports flood forecasting studies conducted by implementing agencies.

February 2024