Polity & Governance

Why dam safety bill bothers Tamil Nadu

Why in news?

  • Last week, the Tamil Nadu Assembly unanimously adopted a special resolution demanding that the Centre keep the Dam Safety Bill 2018 in abeyance.
  • The House urges the Central Government to take up the legislation on Dam Safety only after consulting the States and after arriving at a consensus and till then, keep in abeyance the process of legislating on Dam Safety.


About Dam Safety Bill, 2018

  • In June 2018, the Union Cabinet approved the proposal for introduction of Dam Safety Bill, 2018 in the Parliament.
  • Objective – To help in development of uniform, countrywide procedures for ensuring the safety of dams.
  • Besides providing for safety measures including surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance, the Bill proposes a National Committee on Dam Safety to formulate policies and regulations.
  • It provides for establishment of National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body which shall discharge functions to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country.
  • It also provides for constitution of a State Committees on Dam Safety by state government.


Need of the Dam Safety bill, 2018

  • About 75 percent of the large dams in India are more than 25 years old and about 164 dams are more than 100 years old.
  • Due to lack of legal and institutional architecture for dam safety in India, dam safety is an issue concern. A badly maintained,  unsafe dam can be a hazard to human life, flora and fauna, public and private assets and the environment.
  • India has had 36 dam failures in the past – 11 in Rajasthan, 10 in Madhya Pradesh, 5 in Gujarat, 4 in Maharashtra, 2 in Andhra Pradesh and one each in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Odisha.


Why is Tamil Nadu assembly opposing the bill?

  • The resolution passed by assembly contended that certain clauses of the Bill affected the interests of Tamil Nadu and could potentially affect the State’s rights on control and maintenance of dams located in neighbouring States.
  • For example- Tamil Nadu owns dams in Mullaperiyar, Parambikulam, Thunakadavu and Peruvaripallam in Kerala.
  • After the Mullaperiyar Dam issue, Tamil Nadu is more cautious about its authority and assets.
  • The inputs of the State government were not sought while drafting it, is also a reason of discontent.


Who is now responsible for the maintenance of Dams ?

  • Maintenance, which includes inspections and assessing the safety and strength of the dam, is mostly done by state Public Works Departments except in bigger dams that are managed by autonomous bodies such as Damodar Valley Corporation or Bhakra Beas Management Board.


Mullaperiyar Dam Issue

  • The Mullaperiyar Dam  is a masonry gravity dam on the Periyar River in the Indian state of Kerala
  • It is located 881 m (2,890 ft) above mean sea level, on the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats in Thekkady, Idukki District of Kerala, South India.
  • It was constructed between 1887 and 1895 by John Pennycuick and also reached in an agreement to donate water eastwards to the Madras Presidency area (present-day Tamil Nadu).
  • The Periyar National Park in Thekkady is located around the dam’s reservoir.
  • The dam is located in Kerala on the river Periyar, but is operated and maintained by Tamil Nadu state.
  • The two states have engaged in dispute over the Mullaperiyar dam.
  • When Tamil Nadu wanted to increase storage of the dam, Kerala opposed it citing safety threats.
  • Eventually, a Supreme Court team inspected the dam and confirmed in November 2014 that the dam was safe.
  • In May 2014, the SC had struck down a Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act 2006 limiting the full reservoir level to 136 feet.
  • The dispute was over the Tamil Nadu government’s demand to raise the water level to 142 feet and carry out repair.
  • While that order went against Kerala, the latest move by the Centre has made Tamil Nadu cautious about its authority and assets.

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