BENGALURU: For the first time, the Centre is planning to conduct a ‘break analysis’ of 5,247 large dams across the country, and put in place an emergency action plan, especially for the 196 that are over 100 years old. Of these 196 dams, 72 are in the southern states and Maharashtra.
Break analysis is the examination of dams to identify potential failures that may result in an uncontrolled release of water. It involves the characterisation of threats to public safety that a dam poses. The government has already drafted a ‘dam safety bill’, currently being reworked by the Niti Aayog.
There are two safety issues: the risk of breach and floods, and the decreasing ability to hold as much water as the original capacity (which means less live storage and per capita availability of water). These concerns make maintenance more critical for dams, though not all are in a dilapidated condition or in need of immediate repair.
In October 1987, the Centre had constituted the National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS), which was tasked with overseeing dam safety and suggesting improvements. The committee, headed by the Central Water Commission chairman, met 37 times and has been instrumental in the maintenance of dams.
Dam expert Captain S Raja Rao, who was secretary of the Karnataka water resources department, said: “The safety aspect, especially with dams in flood-prone areas, is critical. Take the Alamatti dam (in Karnataka), and you’ll see its size was increased based on advice from the World Bank, but it has several drawbacks.”
However, he pointed out that successive governments had been spending a lot of time and money on dam upkeep. “There is a continuous effort to improve the inspection galleries in dams (which are key indicators of a dam’s health) and a project called DRIP (Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Programme) is under way,” Rao said.
DRIP, which was started under the UPA government in April 2012 and has been working with five state governments (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha) and two agencies (Damodar Valley Corporation in Jharkhand and Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd), was conceived with an estimated budget of Rs 2,100 crore.
As carried in TOI on 27/9/2017