A bill seeking to set up an institutional mechanism for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams across the country was passed by Lok Sabha on Friday with the centre asserting it has no intention of taking over power of the states.
The provisions of the bill is proposed to be applied to all specified dams in the country which have height of more than 15 metres, or between 10 metres to 15 metres.
Responding to the debate on the Dam Safety Bill, 2019, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said the centre has no intention of taking over the powers of state through the draft law.
Water is a state subject.
Shekhawat said that in 2016, states were consulted on the bill and most agreed that it is better than the 2010 draft.
The Minister asserted that through the proposed law the centre does not want to take control of the dams, water or power generated by it.
He also made it clear that there will be no interference on part of the centre or the Central Water Commission officials.
The centre has formulated emergency action plan for 180 dams.
Referring to Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh, he said as the state government has cancelled the tender, the cost of the project is likely to go up over the years.
He said Parliament has the legislative competence to draft laws which relate to public security and safety.
The bill envisages a two-tier structure at national as well state level to ensure safety of dams in the country, said Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat while moving the bill.
Observing that safety of dam is extremely important as it concerns lives of people, property and flora and fauna, the Minister said "there is a need to have a common protocol for safety of dams in the country."
There are 5,745 reservoirs in the country of which 293 are more than 100 years old. The age of 25 per cent of dams is between 50 to 100 years and 80 per cent are over 25 years old, he said.
Among other things, the bill also seeks to resolve the inter-state issues concerning maintenance and safety of dams, he said, adding as many as 92 per cent of dams in the country are on inter-state river basins.
He further said that 40 dams have collapsed in India since Independence and worst such disaster occurred in Gujarat in 1979 leading to loss of thousands of lives of people.
The dam collapse always becomes an international issue, he said, adding it would be a matter of national shame if it is found the collapse was on account of poor maintenance.
The present bill is based on the earlier draft bill which could not be pushed in the previous Lok Sabha, he said. It includes various suggestions of the Standing Committee which had scrutinised the earlier bill.
The bill, he added, envisages constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety headed by the Chairman, Central Water Commission.
While supporting the bill, Tajasvi Surya (BJP), however, said the legislation does not fix accountability if there is failure of aparticular dam. G S Damor (BJP) said that India should build big dams taking into consideration demand for large quantity of water.
The panel will formulate policies and regulations regarding dam safety standards and prevention of dam failures, and analyse causes of major dam failures and suggest changes in dam safety practices.