Dam Safety Bill runs into Opposition criticism

  1. Opposition parties have criticised the Dam Safety Bill, 2019. They have opined that the bill would undermine the powers of State governments since Water is a State subject. The Dam Safety Bill aims to put uniform safety measures for dams across India.
  2. The Bill provides for the constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety. Functions of the Committee include: a) formulating policies and regulations regarding dam safety standards and prevention of dam failures, and b) analysing causes of major dam failures and suggesting changes in dam safety practices.
  3. The Bill also provides for establishing a National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body to implement the policy. The bill also provides for establishing State Dam safety Organizations (SDSO).
  4. Functions of the SDSOs include: a) keeping perpetual surveillance, inspecting, and monitoring the operation and maintenance of dams, b) keeping a database of all dams, and c) recommending safety measures to owners of dams.
  5. The Bill lays the onus of the dam safety on the dam owner and requires the owners of specified dams to provide a dam safety unit in each dam.
  6. The Bill provides penalties for commission and omission of certain acts. Offenders will be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year or a fine, or both.
  7. As per National Register for Large Dams (NRLD), there are 5,254 large dams in operation and another 447 under-construction. Further there are numerous small and medium dams.
  8. The structural and operational safety of these dams is crucial because about 75% of large dams are more than 25 years old and about 164 dams are more than 100 years old.