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Dam Safety Bill 2019

Dam Safety Bill 2019 has been Passed in Rajya Sabha on December 2, 2021. The Dam Safety Bill which took 34 years to be drafted was already passed in the Lok Sabha on 2 August 2019.

What is Dam Safety Bill?

Dam Safety Bill is drafted with aim to prevent dam related disasters. The bill provides for “surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of the specified dam for prevention of dam failure related disaster” and also makes provision for “institutional mechanisms to ensure their safe functioning”.

There will be four layers of monitoring — two at the central level and two at the state level — to ensure dam safety. 

A National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS) will be set up at the central level, which will be headed by CWC chairman, and include 10 representatives of central government not below the rank of joint secretary, nominated by the Centre, and seven representatives of state government. 

A National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) shall also be established within a period of 60 days, which will implement policy, guidelines and standards evolved by NCDS. Any decision taken by the NDSA shall be binding upon all the parties.

At the state level, each state government shall establish a State Dam Safety Organisation (SDSO), which shall be constituted within a period of 180 days. 

The SDSO shall keep perpetual surveillance, carry out inspections and monitor the operation and maintenance of specified dams falling under their jurisdiction. States will also have to constitute a State Committee on Dam Safety.

The bill will cover all dams constructed before or after the commencement of this Act, which are above 15 metres in height, measured from the lowest portion of the general foundation area to the top of the dam, or between 10 metres and 15 metres in height and satisfies at least one of the following: The length of the crest is not less than 500 m, the capacity of the reservoir formed by the dam is not less than 1 MCM (million cubic metre), the maximum flood discharge dealt with by the dam is not less than 2,000 cumec (cubic metre per second), or the dam has specially difficult foundation problems or the dam is of unusual design.  

The bill provides for stringent penalties in case of violations. If anybody is found obstructing any officer or employee of the central government or the state government or person authorised by National Committee or Authority or the state committee or the SDSO in discharge of functions under this Act, or refuses to comply with any direction given by them, shall face a maximum of two years jail, or a fine, or both.

Action will also be taken if the offence is committed by a government or government official, company or corporate, officials of the company. 

Why Dam Safety Bill is important?

Following the collapse of Machu Dam in Gujarat which costed thousands of lives, several states and PSUs that own dams set up their own safety regulations to prevent dam realted disasters, and there was no national level regulatory body to monitor the functioning and safety of Dams in various parts of the country and this Dam safety Bill paves way for setting up central regulatory body to montior Dam Safety.