The Dam Safety Bill, 2019, has been in the making for the last 34 years. The law intends to ensure proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams in order to prevent disasters.
The Upper House of the Parliament on December 2 passed the Dam Safety Bill 2019, which has been in the making for the last 34 years. Despite the opposition demanding the Bill to be sent to a select committee, the Rajya Sabha passed it with two official amendments through a voice vote.
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The Dam Safety Bill 2019 was approved by the Lok Sabha on August 2, 2019. With the new amendment, it will again go back to the Lok Sabha for approval.
The Bill gains importance in the backdrop of the many lives lost earlier this year following a devastating glacier event and a dam collapse in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district.
As many as 150 people, mostly working on two hydropower plants, were believed to have fallen into a river when a portion of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off and flooded the Dhauli Ganga, Rishi Ganga and Alakananda rivers. Water poured through a valley after floodwaters burst open a dam. More than 50 people were killed in the incident.
What is the Dam Safety Bill 2019?
The Dam Safety Bill 2019 seeks to set up safety regulations for functioning of dams in the country. The law will ensure proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams in order to prevent disasters.
The Bill seeks to create four layers of monitoring -- two each with the state and the Centre.
The legislation makes way for the creation of a National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA), with 10 members nominated by the Centre and seven members from the states. The NDSA will have the power to impose penalties.
The Centre will set up a National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) within two months to implement the policy, guidelines and standards evolved by the National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS).
The law also mandates state governments to set up a State Dam Safety Organisation (SDSO) within six months that will be responsible for surveillance, inspections and monitoring the operation and maintenance of specified dams. The Bill says the states will also constitute a state committee on dam safety.
Many Parliament members were opposed to the Bill as they believe it was a breach of the federal structure, given water is a state subject.
Why is it important?
While introducing the Bill in the Lok Sabha in August 2019, Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat had said since 1947, around 40 dams had collapsed in India.
According to the government, India has 5,745 large dams, of which 293 are over a century old and 1,041 dams are aged between 50 and 100 years. Safety is a major concern with these ageing dams.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)
First Published: IST