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All you need to know about Dam Safety Bill, 2018

The Central Government plans to introduce the Dam Safety Bill 2018 in the winter session of Parliament starting December 11, 2018. Know more about the Bill here:

  • Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR,RD&GR) has drafted Dam Safety Bill, 2018. The Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on 13.6.18 approved the proposal for introduction of Dam Safety Bill, 2018 in the Parliament.
  • The objective of this Bill is to help develop uniform, countrywide procedures for ensuring the safety of dams.
  • It aims to provide legal and institutional framework for safety of dams and seeks to prevent disasters through proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all dams in the country.

Need for a Dam Safety Legislation

  • Over the last fifty years, India has invested substantially in dams and related infrastructures, and ranks third after USA and China in the number of large dams. 5254 large dams are in operation in the country currently and another 447 are under construction .In addition to this, there are thousands of medium and small dams.
  • The provisions of the Dam Safety Bill 2018 will empower the dam safety institutional set-ups in both the Centre and States and will also help in standardizing and improving dam safety practices across the country.
  • While dams have played a key role in fostering rapid and sustained agricultural growth and development in India, there has been a long felt need for a uniform law and administrative structure in the country for ensuring dam safety.
  • 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 endeavors in this direction, but these organizations do not have any statutory powers and are only advisory in nature.
  • This can be a matter of concern, especially since about 75 percent of the large dams in India are more than 25 years old and about 164 dams are more than 100 years old.
  • A badly maintained, unsafe dam can be a hazard to human life, flora and fauna, public and private assets and the environment. India has had 36 dam failures in the past – 11 in Rajasthan, 10 in Madhya Pradesh, 5 in Gujarat, 4 in Maharashtra, 2 in Andhra Pradesh and one each in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Odisha.

Provisions of the Bill

  • The Bill provides for constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS) which shall evolve dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations as may be required for the purpose.
  • NCDS is proposed to be chaired by Chairman of Central Water Commission.
  • The Bill provides for establishment of National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) as a regulatory body which shall discharge functions to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country. A national-level database of all dams in the country would be maintained by the NDSA.
  • The Bill provides for constitution of a State Committee on Dam Safety by State Government. It will ensure proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in that State and ensure their safe functioning.
  • The Bill provides that every state having specified number of dams will establish a State Dam Safety Organization which will be manned by officials with sufficient experience in the field of dam safety.

Opposition

  • Most of the States supported the proposed Bill. State of Kerala and Tamil Nadu raised objections that water being State subject, there is need to review the need of the Bill.
  • Kerala stated that the State already has statutory provisions in place for maintenance of Dams. Tamil Nadu raised concerns regarding ownership of dams and reservoirs which are owned, operated and maintained by a State, but located in another State.
  • The Tamil Nadu State Legislative Assembly unanimously adopted a special resolution urging the Centre to keep the Dam Safety Bill, 2018, in abeyance until the concerns raised over the legislation by Tamil Nadu and other States are addressed.

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