The Dam Safety Bill, 2019 which was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Thursday is significant as 92 per cent dams are constructed on interstate rivers and “there was a need to set an accountability considering the dam break incidents which not only claims innocent lives but also affect the riverine ecology”, said Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
Mentioning that 22 MPs took part in the debate on the Bill, Shekhawat said, “The people of the country have been waiting for the Bill for the last 40 years as it ensures the security of those residing in the downstream reaches of the dams”, and that the move is to create an environment of security by Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government.
In his concluding speech in favour of the Bill, Shekhawat asserted that the Centre has no intention of taking over the power of the states as well as encroaching any of their rights, which was the major concern of various Opposition parties. The Minister made it clear that the Centre neither has any intention to encroach the powers of state on the ownership of dams, its water, electricity or operation, it only made an amendment to give power to the Centre to keep a tab on the safety procedures.
“We work in Cooperative federalism,” Shekhawat said. Rejecting claims of Opposition leaders that states were not approached before the Bill was moved, the Minister said a Bill linked to dam Safety was circulated to states in 2002 based on 1982 recommendations but only Bihar showed its positive approach then.
Participating in the discussion of the Bill, DMK member Tiruchi Shiva raised objection over its move, mentioning “it will take away rights of state”, and demanded that it should be moved to a select committee for further consideration. Congress leader Shakti Singh Gohil called the Bill “unconstitutional”, saying “the government wants to encroach the powers of states”.
The Opposition members took part in the Bill wearing black bands in their hands. Noting that dam Safety is necessary, BJD’s Prasanna Acharya said there are many “lacuna” in the Bill, and that water is a state subject. “The Bill is too focused on structural safety not on operational safety”.
A Bill seeking to set up an institutional mechanism for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams across the country was passed by the Rajya Sabha today unanimously. The provisions of the Bill is proposed to be applied to all specified dams in the country which have a height of more than 15 metres, or between 10 metres to 15 metres.
Moved by Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the Bill provides for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of the specified dam for prevention of dam failure related disasters and to provide for an institutional mechanism to ensure their safe functioning. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on August 2, 2019.