A Bill to set up a Central regulatory mechanism for the surveillance, inspection and maintenance of specified dams across India got Lok Sabha’s approval on Friday amid apprehensions by some Opposition parties that it seeks to encroach upon the powers of the states as water is a state subject as per the Constitution.
“There is no intention of the Bill, nor of the Modi government, to usurp the rights of the states. This is about creating a safe environment for people living in areas served by dams. The water of the dams, the electricity, the land, the dams themselves, all continue to belong to respective states,” Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said.
Shekhawat said that in the 37th National Committee on Dam Safety meeting, almost all states had deliberated the provisions of the Dam Safety Bill, 2019, and had agreed that the provisions are much better than Bill’s predecessor, the Dam Safety Bill of 2010.
He said the draft of the Bill was circulated to all states for comments in 2016 and states had written back. “West Bengal, unfortunately, shows no interest in taking part in the central scheme for repair of its dams,” he said.
The Bill provides that a National Committee on Dam Safety be constituted, which will be chaired by the chairperson of the Central Water Commission. Other members will be nominated by the Centre – up to 20 members, with 10 nominated by the Central government, seven representing the state government, and three experts.
There will be a National Dam Safety Authority headed by an officer, not below the rank of an Additional Secretary, who will be appointed by the central government. States will set up State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs). All specified dams situated in a state will fall under the jurisdiction of that state’s SDSO.