NEW DELHI/CHENNAI: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal for enacting the Dam Safety Bill 2018, a legislation that was strongly opposed by the late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa as it was feared it may dilute the powers Tamil Nadu enjoys over dams like Mullaiperiyar.
The Centre hopes that the new legislation will help the States and Union Territories to adopt uniform safety procedures to ensure safety of reservoirs. The contentious part of an earlier version of the legislation was that it gave the State in which a dam was located more powers, including restricting the water storage level, even though the dam was owned by another State.
Tamil Nadu’s Mullaiperiyar, Parambikulam, Thunakkadavu and Peruvarippallam Dams are owned, operated and maintained by the Tamil Nadu government by virtue of inter-State agreements, but are located in a neighbouring State. Mullaiperiyar is already a contentious issue with Kerala, where the dam is located, alleging that the dam is unsafe, though the Supreme Court, based on Central Water Commission’s reports, had ruled otherwise.
The earlier version of the bill had it that the State Dam Safety Organisation of the State where the dam is located will have control over the dam, even though it was owned by another State. But, it is learnt that the bill in the present form provides for establishment of National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body. In certain cases, such as dams of one State falling under the territory of another, the national authority shall also perform the role of State Dam Safety Organisation thereby eliminating potential causes for inter-State conflicts.
Finance Minister Piyush Goyal told reporters that national committee on dam safety will evolve safety policies and recommend necessary regulations.The authority shall discharge functions to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country.
The legislation will address 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. The Bill also provides for constitution of a State Committee on Dam Safety by the State governments.
The provisions of the Bill also lay onus of dam safety on the dam owner and provides for penal provisions for commission and omission of certain acts. The draft bill has been finalised after wide consultation with leading experts and international experts, Goyal said.