T.N. Assembly says no to Dam Safety Bill

The 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.

The resolution, proposed by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, was supported by all Opposition parties, including the DMK, the Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).

Tamil Nadu contended that certain clauses of the Bill affected the interests of Tamil Nadu and could potentially affect the State’s rights on control and maintenance of dams located in neighboring States.

Tamil Nadu is worried because the draft Bill, in the guise of facilitating dam safety, would affect the State’s prospects in controlling the Mullaperiyar, Parambikulam, Thoonakkadavu and Peruvaripallam dams.

Highlights of Dam Safety Bill, 2018:

The Bill provides for proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in the country to ensure their safe functioning.

The Bill provides for constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety which shall evolve dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations as may be required for the purpose.

The Bill provides for the establishment of National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body which shall discharge functions to implement the policy, guidelines, and standards for dam safety in the country.

The Bill provides for constitution of a State Committee on Dam Safety by State Government.

Functions of the National Dam Safety Authority:

It shall maintain liaison with the State Dam Safety Organisations and the owners of dams for standardization of dam safety-related data and practices.

It shall provide the technical and managerial assistance to the States and State Dam Safety Organisations.

It shall maintain a national level database of all dams in the country and the records of major dam failures.

It shall examine the cause of any major dam failure.

It shall publish and update the standard guidelines and checklists for the routine inspection and detailed investigations of dams and appurtenances.

It shall accord recognition or accreditations to the organizations that can be entrusted with the works of investigation, design or construction of new dams.

It will also look into unresolved points of issue between the State Dam Safety Organisation of two states, or between the State Dam Safety Organisation of a State and the owner of a dam in that State, for a proper solution.

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 for inter-state conflicts.

Need for a legislation:

There are over 5200 large dams in India and about 450 are under construction. Plus 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.

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