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The Dam Safety Bill, 2019


  • The Dam Safety Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 29, 2019. 
  • The Bill put forward the provisions for surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of specified dams across the country and also an institutional mechanism to ensure the safety of such dams.
Applicability of the Bill

  • It applies to all specified dams in the country with
    • Height more than 15 metres, or 
    • Height between 10-15 metres and subject to certain additional design and structural conditions.
National Committee on Dam Safety(NCDS) 
  • NCDS to be constituted that will be chaired by the Chairperson, Central Water Commission.  All other members will be nominated by the central government, and include: 
    • Up to 10 representatives of the central government, 
    • Up to 7 representatives of the state governments (by rotation), and
    • Up to 3 dam safety experts
  • The Committee will perform the following functions : 
    • Formulating policies and regulations related to dam safety standards and prevention of dam failures;
    • Analysing causes of major dam failures and suggesting changes in dam safety practices.
National Dam Safety Authority
  • It will be headed by an officer, not below the rank of an Additional Secretary, to be appointed by the central government.  Its functions will include : 
    • Implementing the policies formulated by the National Committee on Dam Safety;
    • Resolving issues between State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs), or between a SDSO and any dam owner in that state;
    • Specifying regulations for inspection and investigation of dams, and 
    • Providing accreditation to agencies working on construction, design, and alteration of dams.
State Dam Safety Organisation (SDSOs)
  • State governments will establish SDSOs and all specified dams situated in a state will fall under its jurisdiction.
  • However, there are certain cases when the National Dam Safety Authority will act as the SDSO.  These include cases :
    • Where a dam is owned by one state but situated in another state
    • Where a dam extends over multiple states, or 
    • Where a dam is owned by a central public sector undertaking.
  • Its functions will include : 
    • Keeping perpetual surveillance, inspecting, and monitoring the operation and maintenance of dams, 
    • Keeping a database of all dams, and 
    • Recommending safety measures to owners of dams.
State Committee on Dam Safety 
  • These are to be constituted by state governments. Their functions include : 
    • Reviewing the work of the SDSO, 
    • Ordering dam safety investigations, 
    • Recommending dam safety measures and reviewing the progress on such measures, and 
    • Assessing the potential impact on upstream and downstream states who will also have their representatives on the State Committee.
There has been changes in functions of the various bodies and has been provided in Schedules to the Bill. These includes : 
  • National Committee on Dam Safety, 
  • National Dam Safety Authority, and 
  • State Committees on Dam Safety have been provided in Schedules to the Bill.  
The Bill specifies that the central government can amend these Schedules through a notification, if deemed necessary.

Obligations of dam owners 
  • A dam safety unit has to be provided in each dam by the Owners of specified dams. This unit will inspect the dams during certain periods which includes : 
    • Before and after the monsoon session, 
    • During and after every earthquake, flood, or any other calamity or sign of distress.  
  • Dam owners will be required to prepare an emergency action plan, and risk assessment studies are to be carried out for each dam at specified regular intervals.  
  • A comprehensive dam safety evaluation of each dam also to be prepared by the dam owners, at regular intervals, through a panel of experts.  The evaluation will be mandatory in certain cases such as major modification of the original structure, or an extreme hydrological or seismic event.
 Offences and penalties in the Bill
  • The Bill mentioned two types of offences. These are : 
    • Obstructing a person in the discharge of his functions under the Bill, and 
    • Refusing to comply with directions issued under the Bill.  
  • Offenders will be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine, or both.  
  • If the offence leads to loss of lives, the term of imprisonment may be extended up to two years.  
  • Offences will be cognizable only when the complaint is made by the government, or any authority constituted under the Bill.

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