Cabinet approves bill to secure the country's dams

The union cabinet on Wednesday approved the proposal for introduction of a legislation that will help states and union territories adopt uniform safety procedures so as to ensure benefits from dams and safeguard life and property.

The proposed Dam Safety Bill, 2018 to be introduced in Parliament provides for proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in the country to ensure their safe functioning.
The draft bill, finalised after wide consultation with leading Indian and international experts, provides for constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety which shall evolve dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations as may be required.
The bill provides for establishment of National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body that will implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country.
The bill provides for constitution of state committees on dam safety by state governments.
The National Dam Safety Authority will maintain liaison with the state dam safety organisations and the owners of dams for standardisation of dam safety related data and practices. It will also provide technical and managerial assistance to the states and state level dam safety organisations.
It will maintain a national level data-base of all dams in the country and records of major dam failures, examine the cause of any major dam failure and publish and update the standard guidelines and check-lists for the routine inspection and detailed investigations of dams and appurtenances.
The National Dam Safety Authority will also accord recognition or accreditations to organisations that can be entrusted with the works of investigation, design or construction of new dams.
The authority will also look into unresolved points of issue related to inter-state dams or between the dam safety organisations of two or more states.
Further, in certain cases, such as dams of one state falling under the territory of another state, the National Authority shall also perform the role of state dam safety organization thereby eliminating potential causes of conflicts.
State committees on dam safety will ensure proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in states and ensure their safe functioning. These will be manned by experts from the field dam safety, preferably from the areas of dam-designs, hydro-mechanical engineering, hydrology, geo-technical investigation, instrumentation and dam-rehabilitation, says a government release.
There are over 5,200 large dams in India and about 450 are under construction. Besides, there are thousands of medium and small dams. Due to lack of legal and institutional architecture for dam safety in India, dam safety is an issue of concern. Unsafe dams are a hazard and dam break may cause disasters, leading to huge loss of life and property.
The Dam Safety Bill, 2018 addresses all issues concerning dam safety, including regular inspection of dams, emergency action plan, comprehensive dam safety review, adequate repair and maintenance funds for dam safety, instrumentation and safety manuals. It lays onus of dam safety on the dam owner and provides for penal provisions for commission and omission of certain acts.