The Union Water Resources Ministry has drafted new dam safety bill to contemplate an institutional mechanism to improve safety of around 5300-odd dams across in India.
The new law has been vetted by the Union Law Ministry. It will now go to the Union Cabinet for approval and its introduction in Parliament.
Need for such law
- There are around 4900 large dams in India and several thousand smaller ones. However, large reservoirs and water storage structures, in the past few decades, are not seen as a model of safety.
- The failure of these dams due to lack of safety could cause massive disaster such as the 1979 Machchu dam failure in Morbi, Gujarat, in which estimated 25,000 people were killed.
- Recent analysis of the state of India’s dams also has found that half of them did not meet contemporary safety standards. So there is need of much stricter safety criteria.
- Currently, dam safety guidelines are not effectively enforced by the States. The dam safety bill, proposes a Central authority and State-level bodies that will enforce regulation.
- It proposes safety criteria including increasing the spillway (a design structure to ease water build-up) and preventing ‘over-topping’ in which the dam overflows and causes it to fail.
- It also proposes fine on dam and project proponents in the fall short, though they are unlikely to face imprisonment.