NEW DELHI: Union Ministry of Water Resources is all set to move Cabinet seeking approval for Dam Safety Bill that is expected to control and manage over 5000 dams in the country, even as issues raised by Tamil Nadu government remains unresolved.
“We are taking the Dam Safety Bill to cabinet this week or next week for final approval so that it can be taken up during monsoon session of parliament starting next month,” said Amarjit Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources.
On the issues raised by TN government that the bill overrides the federal nature of the Constitution and some other clauses, Singh said that TN had issues specific to Mullaperiyar dam.
“Tamil Nadu did not want Kerala to have right over safety of Mullaperiyar dam. We have offered them a solution that in a case where two states have certain disputes, then safety of the dam will be examined by a team of officials from the Central Water Commission,” said Singh.
The bill proposes central and state level authorities to check and enforce regulation. The need was felt as analysis has found that half of the country's 5300 dams did not meet contemporary safety standards.
The water secretary further said that the ministry has decided to go ahead for cabinet approval as all other states have given their consent.
“Their (TN) issue has been addressed but they continue to vehemently oppose it. However, we are going ahead in a week or two,” he added.
Last year in September, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposing the bill, saying the bill is unacceptable to Tamil Nadu in its current form. An attempt by the UPA government in this regard has failed in 2010.
The objection raised by the state include that the bill does not recognize dams and reservoirs run by long-standing inter-state agreements and the overriding powers to be given to the National Dam Safety Organisation to inspect any dams, among others. The other concerns include the present bill does not give states option of accepting or rejecting legislation after it was passed by parliament. This provision was available in the bill drafted by the UPA.
“Not duly recognizing the established rights under pre-existing long-term agreements for dams such as Mullai Periyar, Parambikulam, Thunakkadavu and Peruvarippallam is a grave omission,” she had said in the letter.