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Dam Safety and Water Resource Management in India

  • 10 Aug 2023
  • 6 min read

For Prelims: Dam Safety Act, 2021, National Hydrology Project (NHP)

For Mains: Related issues with the Dam Safety, Dams Construction and environmental challenges, Ageing of dams in India, Measures that can be taken to ensure dam safety.

Source: PIB

Why in News?

Recently, the Minister of State for Jal Shakti has shed light on India's significant strides in the realm of dam safety and water resource management.

What are the Highlighted Initiatives for Dam Safety Water Resource Management in India?

  • Dam Safety Act, 2021: A Regulatory Framework:
    • Enactment of the Dam Safety Act, 2021, by the Union Government.
    • Focuses on proper surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of specified dams.
    • Aims to prevent dam failure-related disasters and establish an institutional mechanism for safe functioning.
    • Institutional Mechanism:
      • National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS):
        • Formation of the National Committee on Dam Safety at the national level.
        • Responsible for evolving dam safety policies and recommending essential regulations.
        • Provides a strategic platform for ensuring uniform safety standards.
      • National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA):
        • Creation of the National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body.
          • Tasks include implementing policies of the National Committee on Dam Safety.
        • Offers technical assistance to State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSO) and resolves inter-state disputes.
      • State-level Dam Safety Measures:
        • Empowerment of State Governments to establish State Committee on Dam Safety.
        • Creation of State Dam Safety Organisations responsible for enforcing dam safety standards.
        • Renders crucial instructions to dam owners regarding safety protocols and remedial actions.
  • National Hydrology Project (NHP):
    • National Hydrology Project (NHP) is designed with four major components: Water Resources Monitoring System, Water Resources Information System, Water Resources Operations and Planning System, and Institutional Capacity Enhancement.
    • The project aims to enhance water resource management capabilities across the country.
    • Supports studies related to flood forecasting undertaken by Implementing agencies.

What is the State of Indian Dams?

  • India has 5745 numbers of dams (5334 are completed and 411 are under construction).
  • India is ranked third in the world in terms of building large dams.
  • Tehri Dam in Uttarakhand is the highest dam in India built on the Bhagirathi River.
  • Hirakud Dam in Odisha built on river Mahanadi is the longest dam in India.
  • Kallanai Dam in Tamil Nadu is the oldest dam in India. It is built on the Kaveri river and is about 2000 years old.

What are the Other Related Water Resource Management Initiatives?

What are the Challenges Associated with Dam Safety and Water Resource Management?

  • Geological and Geotechnical Challenges:
    • Many regions in India are seismically active, which poses a risk of earthquakes that could impact dam stability.
    • Poor soil quality and unstable geological conditions in certain areas also contribute to challenges in ensuring dam safety.
  • Ageing Infrastructure:
    • Several dams in India are aging and may not meet modern safety standards. Maintenance and rehabilitation of these older structures are essential to prevent potential failures.
  • Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events:
    • Changing climate patterns and increasing instances of extreme weather events, such as heavy rainfall and floods, can strain dams and their reservoirs, potentially leading to overtopping or dam failure.
  • Interstate and International Cooperation:
    • Many rivers in India are shared with neighbouring states or countries, requiring coordinated efforts for dam safety and water management. Disputes and lack of cooperation can impact effective dam management.
  • Emergency Response Infrastructure:
    • Developing and maintaining effective communication networks, evacuation plans, and emergency shelters in the vicinity of dams is essential to manage potential disasters.
  • Community Resettlement and Rehabilitation:
    • In cases where dam construction or operation requires the displacement of local communities, ensuring their proper resettlement and rehabilitation presents challenges.

Way Forward

  • Develop a dynamic and adaptable project plan that incorporates real-time monitoring, eco-friendly technologies, disaster preparedness, and ecosystem restoration, ensuring long-term environmental and social sustainability.
  • Integrate climate change considerations into dam design and management, anticipating shifts in weather patterns and implementing adaptive measures to withstand extreme events.
  • Continue organizing training programs to equip dam safety professionals with skills and knowledge.
  • Strengthen cooperation with neighbouring countries/states to ensure effective management of shared river systems, and resolve conflicts.
  • Prioritize meaningful engagement with local ethnic communities, valuing their input, cultural heritage, and concerns to foster a harmonious project coexistence and ensure their well-being.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Q. Suppose the Government of India is thinking of constructing a dam in a mountain valley bound by forests and inhabited by ethnic communities. What rational policy should resort to in dealing with unforeseen contingencies? (2018)

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