Video Summary

[RSTV The Big Picture] Dam Safety Bill, 2019

Dam Safety Bill, 2019 was passed by Lok Sabha recently 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.
By IT's Video Summary Team
August 10, 2019


  • Introduction
  • IT’s Input
    • About the Dam Safety Bill
  • Need of the Bill
  • Significance of the Bill
  • Challenges to the Dam safety Bill
  • Suggestions
  • Key Facts
  • Way Forward

Dam Safety Bill, 2019

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  • Dam Safety Bill, 2019 seeks to set up and institutional mechanism for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams across the country was passed by the Lok Sabha recently.

IT’s Input:

About the Dam Safety Bill

  • The Bill is proposed to be applied to all specified dam of the country having height more than 15 meters or between 10-15 meters.
  • The Bill also seeks to resolve the interstate issues of concerning maintenance and safety of dams.

Applicability of the Bill:

  • The Bill applies to all specified dams in the country.
  • These are dams with: (i) height more than 15 metres, or (ii) height between 10 metres to 15 metres and subject to certain additional design and structural conditions.

National Committee on Dam Safety:

  • The National Committee on Dam Safety will be constituted and will be chaired by the Chairperson, Central Water Commission.
  • All other members will be nominated by the central government, and include: (ii) up to 10 representatives of the central government, (iii) up to seven representatives of the state governments (by rotation), and (iv) up to three dam safety experts.
  • Functions of the Committee include: (i) formulating policies and regulations regarding dam safety standards and prevention of dam failures, and (ii) analysing causes of major dam failures and suggesting changes in dam safety practices.

National Committee on Dam Safety

National Dam Safety Authority:

  • The National Dam Safety Authority will be set up for
    • 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
    • Providing accreditation to agencies working on dams

State Dam Safety Organization:

  • State governments will establish State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs).
  • All specified dams situated in a state will fall under the jurisdiction of that state’s SDSO.
  • However, in certain cases the National Dam Safety Authority will act as the SDSO. These include cases where a dam: (i) is owned by one state but situated in another state, (ii) extends over multiple states, or (iii) is owned by a central public sector undertaking.

State Committee on Dam Safety:

  • The Bill provides for the constitution of State Committees on Dam Safety by state governments.
  • Functions of the Committee include: (i) reviewing the work of the SDSO, (ii) ordering dam safety investigations, (iii) recommending dam safety measures.

Obligations of dam owners:

  • Owners of specified dams are required to provide a dam safety unit in each dam.
  • This unit will inspect the dams: (i) before and after the monsoon session, and (ii) 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 carry out risk assessment studies for each dam at specified regular intervals.

Offences and penalties:

  • The Bill provides for two types of offences. These are: (i) obstructing a person in the discharge of his functions under the Bill, and (ii) refusing to comply with directions issued under the Bill. 

Need of the Bill

  • So far, the dams were controlled by the state governments. Nowadays, private companies are also coming into the picture. They show commercial interest in hydro power projects. The Bill sets up the uniform procedure for all dam owners and impart some responsibilities to them as well.

Significance of the Bill

  • As the water is a state subject, the Bill does not takes away the authority of states to regulate dams, but provides broad guidelines.
  • The various contractors and designers which construct the existing dam in India were not professional leading to many design problems in dams. The Bill, by providing accreditation to those designers through National Dam Safety Authority, addresses the issue of unprofessionalism.
  • Currently, the dams are entirely regulated by individual dam managers. There could be risk to safety of dams without systemization and work without understanding of water stream and downstream requirements. Kerala and Bihar are the examples. The Bill provides for the uniform standardized procedure for Dam handling.

Challenges to the Dam safety Bill

  • Age of the dam is the major issue for the dam safety. The design, hydrology of old dams etc. are not at par with the new dam technologies. This issue was needed to be taken in the Bill.
  • Siltation (A process by which water becomes dirty as a result of fine mineral particles) which is occurring on large number will reduce the water holding capacity of dams which can cause major damage to the dam. Hence, the Bill does not take ‘design fault’ aspect of the Dam due to the amount of silt deposition.
  • In country like India which has different types of climate and different catchment areas, the uniformity in the Bill is quite unfit for all.
  • The National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) proposed in the Bill is merely the upgradation of the already existed Central Dam safety organization (CDSO). The NDSA has no policing power (to take police action if Dam owners violates the NDSA guidelines). The NDSA can only refer the violations to state government.

Governance structure of dam safety

  • The techno-economic appraisal of all the dam projects of central or state government are done by Central Water Commission. However, it also audit the same dam project for any of the failure. This relates to the judge of being own cause.
  • National Dam Safety Authority is burdened with a lot of responsibly such as policing matter, direction regarding qualification and experience requirement for individuals, maintenance of logbook, quality control measures and disqualification of earlier notified people etc.

Representation of state

  • There is already a National committee on Dam Safety with as many as 18 states representation in it.
  • However, the Bill seeks to represent only 7 states in the National Dame Safety Authority, presenting the lack of practicality of governance.



  • The State irrigation department along with Central Water Commission need to be strengthen.
  • The statutory requirement of Dam audits should be with state governments and not with National Dam Safety Authority.

Safety measures

  • Factors like land scape, land used, structural features and age of the structure­ affect the dam safety. Moreover, the rapid changes in land use will increase the amount of water coming to the Dam. These factors need to be consider while preparing for standard procedures.
  • Environmental aspect is also need to be consider.

Key Facts

  • Around 92% of dams in the country are on interstate river basins.
  • There are 5745 reservoirs in the country of which 293 are more than 100 years old. 25% dams are 50-100 years old and 80% are over 25 years old.
  • 40 dams have collapsed in India since independence. And in Gujarat in 1979 a worst disaster was occurred leading to thousands of lives of people.

Way Forward

  • As the various systems were already there, a legislative push has to be given for a better activity on dam safety concerns.


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