'Poor Data Collection on Small Dams Worrying'

No data on the number of small dams in India is available

Published: 19th January 2016 06:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th January 2016 04:45 AM   |  A+A-

BENGALURU:  In the last few years safety of dams in the country has garnered enough concern that active efforts are being made to address the issues like construction, maintenance and safety.

According to the latest statistics available with the Ministry of Water Resources, India is home to 5,100 large dams, but there is no data on the number of small dams or minor irrigation dams. Officials of the Central Water Commission (CWC) say the lack of training for ground-level staff and poor collection of data pertaining to dams are two of the reasons that concerns them about taking the right decisions about operations in times of an emergency.

On the sidelines of the two-day National Dam Safety Conference held in the city recently, Project Director of the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project, B Ravi Kumar Pillai said that states have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to safety of dams. Efforts, he says, are being made to increase awareness and knowledge among the ground-level staff.

“If you do not understand the grass-root level workers who have to operate during an emergency, then there is no value of a response. Training is essential for these people. While many of the dam sites have to deal with insufficient staff, the ones that are staffed have absolutely no motivation or any kind of incentives. In many cases, a ground-level engineer would have worked at the same post for 20-25 years without ever getting a promotion,” Pillai said.

At many places, despite having competent engineers at the ground level, decisions about the operation of a dam are taken at a political or bureaucratic level, he added.

In addition, there is a lack of documentation on many of the older dams. Blueprints or drawings of individual dams and other information pertaining to the construction of the dam have either been lost or no data has been maintained. A massive effort is now on to maintain a database of dams across India.

Lack of funds for construction and upkeep has also proved to be a problem. Problems build over a period of time, when dams are not maintained well and then the costs spiral as the neglect results in constant fixes.

“States have to push their cases more and submit proposals to the Centre. We are trying to see if we can come with more programmes like DRIP, if there is a substantial response. We have solutions and we have technology and we have already trained more than a 1,000 engineers. So states can look for both capacity backup which can be provided and funds, which can be arranged if needed,” Pillai said.

The CWC is already advising several countries like Bhutan, Nepal and several African countries on design, construction and maintenance.

The Safety conference was the second such conference and focused on effective application of knowledge and technology to practical issues faced by dam safety professionals. The next Safety Conference will be held at IIT Roorkee in February next year.


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