Dam Safety Bill, 2018 approved, to standardize and strengthen dam safety practices and institutions

The Union Cabinet on 13-06-2018, approved the introduction of Dam Safety Bill, 2018 in the Parliament. The objective of this Bill is to help develop uniform, countrywide procedures for ensuring the safety of dams and safeguard benefits from such dams. This shall also help in safeguarding human life, livestock and property. While dams have played a key role in fostering rapid and sustained agricultural growth and development in India, there has been a long felt need for a uniform law and administrative structure in the country for ensuring dam safety. The provisions of this Bill will empower the dam safety institutional set-ups in both the Centre and States and will also help in standardizing and improving dam safety practices across the country. The Bill addresses all issues concerning dam safety including regular inspection of dams, Emergency Action Plan, comprehensive dam safety review, adequate repair and maintenance funds for dam safety, Instrumentation and Safety Manuals. It lays the onus of dam safety on the dam owner and provides for penal provisions for commission and omission of certain acts.

Institutional Framework

  • Constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety to evolve dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations.
  • Establishment of a National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety, and maintain liaison with State Dam Safety Organisations and owners of dams for standardisation of dam safety related data and practices, and further provide the technical and managerial assistance to States and State Dam Safety Organisations, and also maintain a national level data-base of all dams in the country and records of major dam failures, and examine the cause of such failure. Furthermore, it shall publish and update the standard guidelines and check-lists for routine inspection and detailed investigations of dams and appurtenances and accord recognition or accreditations to organisations that can be entrusted with works of investigation, design or construction of new dams. It will also look into unresolved points of issue between State Dam Safety Organisation of two states, or between State Dam Safety Organisation of a State and owner of a dam in that State, for proper solution. Further, in certain cases, such as dams of one State falling under territory of another State, the National Authority shall also perform role of State Dam Safety Organization thereby eliminating potential causes for inter-state conflicts.
  • Constitution of a State Committee on Dam Safety by State Government to ensure proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in that State and ensure their safe functioning, and further provides that every State shall establish a “State Dam Safety Organisation”, which will be manned by officers from the field dam safety preferably from the areas of dam-designs, hydro-mechanical engineering, hydrology, geo-technical investigation, instrumentation and dam-rehabilitation.
  • Also every state having a specified number of dams will have to establish a State Dam Safety Organization which will be manned by officials with sufficient experience in the field of dam safety.

Duties and Functions

The Bill lays down that all specified dams will fall under jurisdiction of the SDSO of the State in which the dam is situated. NDSA shall be construed as SDSO, for specified dams owned by CPSUs or where a dam is extended in 2 or more states or where a dam owned by one state is situated in another state. For all dams under their jurisdiction, the SDSOs will be required to keep perpetual surveillance, carry out inspections, and monitor the operation and maintenance, classify each dam as per vulnerability and hazard classification criteria laid down by NCDS, maintain a Log Book/Data-base recording activities of surveillance/inspection and important events, maintain records of major dam incidents, render its advice to the concerned dam owner on the safety or remedial measures.

The dam owners are required to

  • Earmark sufficient funds for maintenance & repairs, and to implement the recommendations of SDSO.
  • Compile all technical documentations related to dam safety, along with information on resources/ facilities to be affected by dam failure.
  • have state-of-the-art data management tools.
  • Individuals responsible for dam safety to possess qualifications & experience specified by regulations, and  undergo adequate trainings

In case of construction or alterations of dams

  • Investigation, design & construction has to be done by recognised organizations.
  • Use of the relevant standard codes and guidelines of the BIS.
  • Qualified, experienced and competent engineers, as specified by NCDS, for the purpose of investigation, design & construction.
  • Demonstration of safety of design, operational parameters and policies to NDSA/SDSO for approval.
  • Undertaking of quality control measures, as specified by NCDS.
  • Construction of new dam or alteration/enlargement of existing dam only with the approval of the competent authority.
  • Before initial filling of any reservoir, the filling criteria & initial filling plan, to be prepared.
  • Safety inspection by SDSO before initial filling.
  • Establishment of O&M setup with adequate staff.
  • Ensuring a well documented O&M Manual.

Safety Inspection & Data Collection

  • For each dam, owner has to establish within his O&M setup a ‘dam safety unit’.
  • Dam owner to undertake, through dam safety unit, pre-monsoon & post-monsoon inspections of dam.
  • Special inspections during & after floods, after earthquake, on sign of distress/ unusual behaviour.
  • Engineers, as agreed by SDSO, to be stationed at dam site throughout monsoon period, and during period of emergency following earth-quake/hazard.
  • For each dam, owner to have a minimum number of dam instrumentations installed; maintain record of readings; and forward analysis to SDSO.
  • Hydro-meteorological station at each dam site.
  • Seismological station for dams higher than 30m or falling in zone III or above.

Emergency Action Plan & Disaster Management

Every owner in respect of each dam to is required to

  • Establish hydro-meteorological network and inflow forecasting system;
  • Establish an emergency flood warning system;
  • Test periodically for the aptness of above systems;
  • Make available information on anticipated inflows, outflows, flood warnings & adverse impacts to authorities and public domain;
  • Render cooperation to NDSA in running of early warning system.
  • Carry out risk assessment study at interval as specified. First such study within five years;
  • Prepare emergency action plan within 5 years; and for new dams, before the initial filling.
  • Emergency Action Plan to include type of emergencies likely to occur; likely flood in the event of dam failure, along with probable areas, population, structures and installations likely to be affected; Warning procedures, inundation maps and advance preparations for handling adverse situations to avoid loss of human life; Consultation/ cooperation with DM agencies.

Comprehensive Dam Safety Evaluation

The Bill provides for comprehensive safety evaluation by independent panel of expert. First CSE within 5 years, and thereafter at regular intervals specified by NCDS. CSE would be compulsory in case of major modification to structure or design criteria; discovery of unusual condition at dam or reservoir rim; an extreme hydrological or seismic event.

Offences & Penalties

  • If a person obstructs any officer/employee or refuses to comply with any direction of the Central/ State Govt or NCDS/ NDSA/ SCDS/ SDSO, the action would be punishable with imprisonment upto 1 year, or/ and fine (2 years for loss of lives)
  • If offence by any department of the Govt, the head of the department deemed to be guilty if offence committed with his knowledge.
  • If offence by a company/body corporate, every person in charge of/responsible for conduct of business of company, deemed to be guilty.
  • No cognizance of offence except on a complaint by Central/State Govt or NCDS/NDSA/SCDS/SDSO.

Ministry of  Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation

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