Ministry of Jal Shakti sets up National Dam Safety Authority

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More than three months after the Dam Safety Bill was passed by the Parliament, the Ministry of Jal Shakti has finally set up the National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA).

Member (Design & Research), Central Water Commission, will be heading the NDSA, the Ministry of Jal Shakti said in a memorandum.

The Dam Safety Act 2021 passed by the Parliament in December 2021 provides for surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of certain specified dams across the country with a provision of imprisonment up to two years, or a fine, or both, for an offence under it.

The Act applies to all dams with height more than 15 metres, or height between 10 metres and 15 metres with certain design and structural conditions, and includes dams built on both inter and intra-state rivers.

The Ministry data show that India has 5,745 large dams (includes dams under construction). Of these, 5,675 large dams are operated by the states, 40 by central public sector undertakings, and five by private agencies.

Over 75 per cent of these dams are more than 20 years old and about 220 dams are more than 100 years old. Most of these large dams are in Maharashtra (2,394), Madhya Pradesh (906), and Gujarat (632). One of them is the 126-year-old Mullaperiyar dam located on the confluence of the Mullayar and Periyar rivers in Kerala’s Idukki district.

The move came ahead of a Supreme Court hearing in connection with the case related to the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam.

The Supreme Court had wanted to dissolve the supervisory committee it had constituted for the safety of Mullaperiyar dam but was requested by the government to continue with it till the National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) becomes functional under the 2021 Act. The Supreme Court had on April 8 agreed to the request in the larger public interest.

Earlier in February, the Centre had notified the NDSA and also issued the notification for the rules for the same. Around the same time, it had also constituted the National Committee on Dam Safety, aimed to help in evolving policies and recommending regulations regarding dam safety standards while the National Dam Safety Authority will implement the policies and provide technical assistance to the state bodies.

Apart from the Chairman, the NDSA will have a member each for policy and research, technical, regulation, disaster resilience and one for finance and administration.

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