The draft legislation, which received a nod of the Union Cabinet, aims to establish an institutional system to regularly monitor the safety of large dams, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters in New Delhi.
The new legislation will help the states in adopting uniform dam safety procedures which will ensure safety of dams and safeguard benefits derived from them.
The legislation also provides for proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of large dams against risks associated with ‘dam failures’.
The bill seeks to enjoin responsibility on central government, state governments and owners of specified dams to set up an institutional mechanism for ensuring safety of such structures and reporting the action taken.
While some states like Bihar have their own dam safety laws, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have authorised Parliament to enact a law in this regard.
As per constitutional provisions, if two or more states authorize Parliament to make a law on a state subject, the Centre can pass a law. Other states can pass a resolution in their legislatures to adopt the Central law. Water is a state subject.
With several private players now involved in operating dams, they would also be covered under the proposed law.
Under the new bill, a Dam Safety Cell will be set up at the project level, while a Dam Safety Organisation will be constituted at the state level.
According to the National Register of Large Dams, 2009, India has 4,710 completed dams, while 390 dams are under construction.
Despite no word on who would be its members, the National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Sonia Gandhi has been sanctioned a 35-strong staff, including a Secretary level officer.
The Union Cabinet, at its meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday, approved 35 posts to the NAC, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters in New Delhi.
The NAC has been tasked to act as a link between the government and the ruling coalition to monitor implementation of various key flagship programmes.
The posts sanctioned include a Secretary, an Additional Secretary and Joint Secretaries, she said.
Official sources said a sum of Rs 33 lakh has been earmarked for expenditure on this count annually and the funds would come from the budgetary grants of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Gandhi was appointed Chairperson of the NAC in March, four years after she quit the post in the wake of the office of profit controversy.
As the NAC chief, Gandhi would enjoy the rank of Cabinet Minister and her tenure would be co-terminus with that of NAC.
The other members of the NAC are yet to be nominated.
The Council was first set up after UPA-I came to power in 2004 as an interface with civil society with regard to the implementation of Government’s National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP).
The term of the first NAC ended on 31st March, 2008.