Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat (Source: LS TV)
Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat (Source: LS TV)

LS passes Dam Safety Bill, minister says no encroachment on powers of states

ANI | Updated: Aug 02, 2019 21:26 IST

New Delhi [India], Aug 2 (ANI): The Lok Sabha on Friday passed the Dam Safety Bill, 2019, which seeks to provide uniform safety procedures for specified dams in the country.
Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat during the discussion stated that the Centre had no intention to take rights or powers of states. He said the government aims to bring legislation aimed at enhancing the security of citizens.
Replying to the debate on the Dam Safety Bill, 2019, Shekhawat said Modi government was seeking to create a new India in an environment which provides greater security to citizens.
He said steps had been taken to enhance road safety, data security and space security.
Responding to concerns of several opposition members that states had not been consulted, he said such apprehension may have arisen due to a communication gap.
He said the draft bill was sent to states and a meeting was also held with their representatives.
"There is no top-down approach in Modi government. We work to the philosophy of cooperative federalism," he said.
He said National Committee on Dam Safety was a technical body and not a regulatory body.
The minister said that several dams did not have an emergency action plan and the government had done it for 180 dams.
Noting that there had been complaints about leakage from dams, he said Rs 600 crore had been spent for upkeep including repair of gates of Hirakund dam.
The minister said 80 per cent work in changing gates of Farakka barrage had been completed and the rest will also be done.
Responding to queries about Polavaram project, he said it is a national project and audited accounts of Rs 3000 crore have been submitted for the expenditure of Rs 5000 crores and accounts for the balance amount needs to be submitted for further reimbursement.
Answering a query, he said that responsibility for construction of Polvaram dam was with the state government and expressed regret that it had tender of concessionaire had been cancelled by it. He said it will lead to cost escalation.
Earlier moving the bill for passage, the minister said India had the third-largest number of dams in the world. He said of nearly 5700 dams, 293 were more than 100 years old and about 20 per cent were between 50 to 100 years old.
He said there was no direct correlation between the age of dam and possibility of a rupture but if a dam breaks it can lead to huge loss of life and flora and fauna. Shekhawat said 92 per cent of dams in the country were built on inter-state river basins. He said a draft Dam Safety Bill was prepared in 2002 and expressed concern that a bill for passage had come to Parliament after 17 years.
Shekhawat said the Bill has taken into account the recommendations of the standing committee. Noting that the existing organizations on dam safety only had an advisory role, he said some dams were being jointly managed by states but there were instances of a vast difference in the way they were performing the task.
The bill entails the creation of the National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body, which will implement the policy, guidelines, and standards on dam safety in the country. It also entails setting up of State committee on dam safety and State Dam Safety Organisation.
A national committee on dam safety will be set up to evolve safety policies and recommend necessary regulations. The Bill seeks to address various issues concerning dam safety including regular inspection of dams, emergency action plan, adequate repair and maintenance funds, and instrumentation and the safety manuals.
The Bill lays onus of dam safety on the dam owner and provides for penal provisions for commission and omission of certain acts. (ANI)

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