Dam Safety Act, 2021
India ranks third in the world, after USA and China, in terms of large dams. As per the records of National Register of Large Dams- 2019, India has 5334 operational large dams and 411 are under construction. The safety of the dams in India is the principal concern of the State agencies and other organizations that own the dams and are involved in various aspects of their investigations, planning, design, construction, surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance, thus making the overall responsibility of Dam Safety that of the dam owners. As the practices of dam safety vary from State to State and from organization to organization, the Central Government has been working towards evolving unified practices of dam safety management and has recommended its implementation by all States and dam owning organizations. An approach in this direction had begun in 1979 when the Central Dam Safety Organization was established in Central Water Commission.
The Government of India, keeping the importance of safety of dams, constituted a Standing Committee in the year 1982 under the Chairmanship of Chairman, Central Water Commission to review the existing practices and to evolve unified procedure for safety of dams in India. The Standing Committee recommended for unified dam safety procedure for all dams in India and for necessary legislation on dam safety. In accordance with the recommendations of the Standing Committee, a comprehensive Draft Dam Safety Bill was prepared in 2002 and circulated to the State Governments for comments. The States responded well to the draft Bill.
The Dam Safety Bill was finalised by the then Ministry of Water Resources after Inter-Ministerial consultations. After the requisite Inter-Ministerial consultations on the draft Cabinet Note circulated by Ministry of Water Resources in October 2009, the proposal for enactment of dam safety legislation was approved by the Cabinet on 13th May, 2010. The Bill was tabled before the Parliament on the 30th August, 2010, and was subsequently referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources for examination. Owing to the significant changes & modifications entailed in the Bill while complying with the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, the Ministry of Water resources decided to withdraw the Bill. The Dam Safety Bill, 2018 was prepared for coverage across whole of India, incorporating the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee. However, with dissolution of the Sixteenth Lok Sabha, the Dam Safety Bill, 2018 lapsed.
The Dam Safety Act, 2021 has been enacted by the Parliament and notified in the Gazette of India by Ministry of Law and Justice (Legislative Department) as The Dam Safety Act, 2021, No.41 of 2021 on 14th Dec 2021; and vide MoJS, DoWR, RD & GR Gazette Notification-S.O. 5422(E) dated 28th Dec 2021 the Central Government appointed 30th Dec 2021 as the date on which the provisions of the said Act shall come into force.
In brief, the mechanism at Central & State Government provided in the aforesaid Act are as follows-
a) Constitution of the National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS)
b) Establishment of the National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA)
c) Constitution of the State Committee on Dam Safety (SCDS) by the State Governments
d) Establishment of the State Dam Safety Organisation (SDSO) in States
The Ministry of Jal Shakti vide Gazette Notification-S.O. 757(E) dated 17th February, 2022 has notified the constitution of National Committee of Dam Safety (NCDS) and vide Notification S.O. 758(E) established the National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA). Further vide Gazette Notification dated 17th February, 2022: MoJS Notification-G.S.R. 134(E): National Committee on Dam Safety (Procedures, Allowance and other Expenditure) Rules, 2022; Notification- G.S.R. 135(E) National Dam Safety Authority (Functions and Powers) Rules, 2022 have been notified.
Ministry of Jal Shakti vide OM No.N-52011/2/2021-BM/PR dated 04.04.2022 has assigned the additional charge of Chairman, NDSA to the Member (D&R), CWC, and additional charge of the Members of NDSA to the four Chief Engineers of CWC and JS&FA, DoWR, RD & GR, MoJS to carry out their mandated functions as per the provisions of Dam Safety Act 2021 till such time the regular staff and Recruitment Rules for NDSA is finalized.