The Parliament has passed the Dam Safety Bill. While it was passed by the Lok Sabha in August 2019, it was cleared by Rajya Sabha recently.
The Bill proposes to help all states and Union Territories adopt uniform dam safety procedures. It provides for the surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of all specified dams across the country. These are dams with height more than 15 metres, or height between 10 metres to 15 metres with certain design and structural conditions.
As of 2019, India has 5,745 large dams. Of these, 5,675 large dams are operated by states, 40 by central public sector undertakings, and five by private agencies. Over 75% of these dams are more than 20 years old and about 220 dams are more than 100 years old.
Due to the 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. Therefore, monitoring dam safety is essential.
The Bill constitutes two national bodies: the National Committee on Dam Safety, whose functions include evolving policies and recommending regulations regarding dam safety standards; and the National Dam Safety Authority, whose functions include implementing policies of the National Committee, providing technical assistance to State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs), and resolving matters between SDSOs of states or between a SDSO and any dam owner in that state.
- It also constitutes two state bodies: State Committee on Dam Safety, and State Dam Safety Organisation. These bodies will be responsible for the surveillance, inspection, and monitoring the operation and maintenance of dams within their jurisdiction.
- The state dam safety organisation must also report events such as dam failures to the National Dam Safety Authority and also maintain records of major dam incidents of each specified dam.
- Functions of the national bodies and the State Committees on Dam Safety have been provided in Schedules to the Bill. These Schedules can be amended by a government notification.
- An offence under the Bill can lead to imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine, or both.