The 2021 Dam Safety Bill

The 2021 Dam Safety Bill was conveyed to Rajyasabha, but discussions did not proceed due to opposition intervention.

Covered Dams

  • All Indian dams over 15 meters high are included in the bill.
  • Dams 10 to 15 meters high are also covered, but only if they meet other specific structural requirements.

The 2021 Dam Safety Bill ​

  • The bill provides institutional mechanisms for dam monitoring, inspection, operation, maintenance, and safety to prevent disasters.
  • This applies to more than 5,000 dams nationwide, many of which are currently in poor condition.
  • It faced severe opposition, especially from some states claiming that the bill was beyond the centre's authority.

NCDS (National Committee on Dam Safety)

  • The bill establishes the National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS), chaired by the Central Water Commission (CWC).
  • Other members of the NCDS are nominated by the centre and include up to 10 representatives from the centre, seven representatives from the state government, and three experts in dam safety.
  • NCDS has developed guidelines for dam safety and aims to prevent dam collapse.
  • In the event of a dam failure, NCDS will analyze the reason for the failure and propose changes to the dam's safety practices to ensure no recurrence.

National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA)

  • The bill implements NCDS guidelines.
  • It stimulates the formation of an NDSA responsible for resolving issues between the state dam safety organization (or SDSO) and dam owners.
  • The NDSA also sets rules for dam inspections and certifies various agencies working on constructing and reconstructing dams
  • State Dam Safety Organization (SDSO) The bill will also lead to establishing the State Commission on SDSO and Dam Safety (SCDS).
  • SDSO has jurisdiction over all dams in that particular state. Comprehensive jurisdiction The NDSA may have this jurisdiction, such as if the dam is owned by another state, crosses multiple states, or owns a dam by the Central Authority.
  • SDSO is responsible for investigating dams and maintaining the corresponding database.
  • The SCDS should review the SDSO work and assess the impact of dam-related projects on upstream and downstream states.
  • The bill empowers the central government to change the functions of the above agencies through notifications as deemed necessary.

How is Bill changing the way dams work?

  • If the bill is converted to law, dam owners must provide each dam safety unit.
  • The dam safety department should inspect the dam before and after the monsoon, during and after natural disasters like earthquakes and floods.
  • The bill requires dam owners to develop an emergency response plan. In addition, owners should conduct risk assessment surveys regularly.
  • At regular intervals, the dam owner prepares a comprehensive safety assessment by an expert in the event of changes in the dam's structure or natural phenomena that may affect the structure.
  • The problem is the four dams in Kerala, Mullaperiyar, Parambikulam, Tunakkadab and Peruvian Balipalam, owned, operated and maintained by the Tamil Nadu Government.

Problems with the Bill

  • The primary objection to this bill is that it is unconstitutional because water is one of the things on the state list.
  • Tamil Nadu, which currently owns four dams in Kerala, violates the law as the four dams fall under NDSA.
  • This removes Tamil Nadu's right to maintain the dam. The bill provides that The Central Water Commission will head NCDs.
  • However, in the past, the Supreme Court ruled that such a scenario was banned because the CWC, an adviser who also serves as the head of the regulatory agency and NCDS, could not proceed with discussions due to opposition intervention.