What is the state of Indian dams? What are the issues with Indian dams? Dam safety and government initiatives in India? Read further to know more.
According to recent UN research, 3,700 dams in India will lose 26% of their total storage capacity by 2050 as a result of sediment buildup, which could eventually jeopardize future water security, irrigation, and power generation.
The United Nations University Institute on Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), also referred to as the UN’s think tank on water completed the study.
China, the country with the biggest dams in the world, has already lost nearly 10% of its storage and will lose an additional 10% by 2050.
What is the State of Indian Dams?
In the world, India is third in the construction of major dams. About 1,100 of the more than 5,200 major dams that have been erected so far have reached the age of 50, and others are more than 120 years old. By 2050, there will be 4,400 of these types of dams, or 80% of the country’s major dams, which will range in age from 50 to more than 150 years.
Since the lifespan of hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized dams is significantly shorter than that of huge dams, the situation is even more perilous.
Examples: The Krishna Raja Sagar dam, which was constructed in 1931, is 90 years old. Similar to Mettur Dam, which was built in 1934 and is currently 87 years old. The basin of the water-scarce Cauvery river contains both of these reservoirs.
Significance: Dams have many advantages, such as enhanced navigation for transit, fresh water supply, irrigation water storage, and hydroelectric power generation.
What are the Issues with Indian Dams?
- Ageing infrastructure: Many of India’s dams were built several decades ago and are in need of maintenance and repair. This can lead to structural issues and an increased risk of failure.
- Built based on Rainfall Pattern: State of Indian dams are very old and were constructed based on the historical patterns of rainfall. They have been exposed recently by erratic rains.
However, the government is outfitting the dams with informational systems like rainfall notifications and flood alerts and creating emergency action plans in order to prevent all manner of accidents.
- Storage Capacity Declining: As dams get older, the water in the reservoirs is replaced by dirt. As a result, it is not possible to say that today’s storage capacity is equivalent to that of the 1950s and 1900s.
Reservoirs in India are losing storage space at a rate that is quicker than expected.
- Environmental impacts: Dams can have a significant impact on the environment, including the displacement of local communities, the destruction of ecosystems, and changes in water flow and quality.
- Climate change: Climate change has increased variability in the availability of water and uncertainty in the availability of water in the future.
- Safety concerns: There have been incidents of dam failures in India in the past, which have resulted in the loss of life and damage to property. This has raised concerns about the safety of India’s dams.
- Governance and management: The issue of dam governance and management is a complex one in India, as there are many stakeholders involved, including state and central government agencies, local communities, and private companies.
- Socio-economic impacts: Dams can have a significant impact on local communities, including displacement, loss of livelihood, and changes in access to water and other resources.
- Inefficient use of water: The state of Indian dams are not used efficiently, which leads to the waste of water. This is a major concern in a country where water is a precious resource.
- Lack of transparency: There is a lack of transparency in the operation and maintenance of dams in India, which makes it difficult for stakeholders to hold the relevant authorities accountable.
What are the Impacts of Dam Construction?
- Water storage: Dams are built primarily to store water for irrigation, hydroelectric power generation, flood control, and other uses.
- Cost: Constructing dams is an expensive undertaking that can strain both state and federal budgets.
- Transparency: When decision-making is not done in a transparent manner, the public may lose faith in dams and the organizations that run them.
- Electricity generation: It can be used to generate hydroelectric power, which can provide a clean and renewable source of energy.
- Flood control: Dams can be used to regulate water flow and reduce the risk of flooding downstream.
- Navigation: Can create reservoirs that can be used for navigation and transportation.
- Recreational opportunities: State of Indian Dams can create recreational opportunities such as fishing, boating, and swimming.
- Environmental impacts: These include the displacement of local communities, destruction of ecosystems, and changes in water flow and quality.
- Socio-economic impacts: Dam construction can have a significant impact on local communities, including displacement, loss of livelihood, and changes in access to water and other resources.
- Loss of biodiversity: Reservoirs created by dams can submerge and destroy habitats of many species, thereby leading to loss of biodiversity.
- Soil erosion: State of Indian Dams can also lead to soil erosion, landslides and earthquakes.
- Conflict: Dam construction can lead to conflicts between different stakeholders, such as local communities, government agencies, and private companies.
Dam Safety in India
Dam safety in India is a concern as many of the country’s dams were built several decades ago and are in need of maintenance and repair. Additionally, there have been incidents of dam failures in India in the past, which have resulted in the loss of life and damage to property.
The Central Water Commission (CWC) is the main agency responsible for dam safety in India. It is responsible for the surveillance, inspection, and maintenance of all centrally-funded dams in the country. Additionally, state governments are also responsible for the safety of dams under their jurisdiction.
In recent years, the Indian government has taken steps to improve dam safety in the country, such as:
- Setting up a National Dam Safety Organization (NDSO) in 2019, under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, to coordinate dam safety-related activities and policies in the country.
- The nation has more than 5,200 sizable dams. While some dams are situated within a state, they are controlled by another state and do not have a defined maintenance schedule.
- There are thousands of more small and medium-sized dams throughout the nation in addition to these ones. Of the overall number of big dams, 293 are older than 100 years and 1,041 are older than 50.
- The safety and upkeep of so many dams are an issue in the absence of an appropriate regulatory framework. All designated dams in the nation must be monitored, thoroughly inspected, operated, and maintained according to the 2019 Dam Safety Bill.
- Developing a National Dam Safety Policy (NDSP) in 2018, which lays out guidelines for dam safety management and monitoring in India.
- Carrying out regular safety inspections of dams and taking action to address any deficiencies identified.
- Providing training and capacity building to dam safety personnel.
- Promoting the use of new technologies and best practices in dam safety management.
However, the safety of dams in India still remains a concern due to a lack of regular maintenance, lack of transparency and lack of coordination between different agencies.
It is important to note that the majority of the dams in India are owned and operated by the state government and there are no comprehensive regulations for their safety.
Also, read the Dam safety act in India, 2021.
What are the concerns associated with the present system of Dam Management?
The current system of dam management in India has several concerns, including:
- Lack of maintenance: The state of Indian dams is aging and in need of maintenance and repair, but there is often a lack of funding and resources devoted to this purpose.
- Lack of transparency: There is often a lack of transparency in the operation and maintenance of dams in India, which makes it difficult for stakeholders to hold the relevant authorities accountable.
- Governance and management issues: The issue of dam governance and management is complex in India, as there are many stakeholders involved, including state and central government agencies, local communities, and private companies. This often leads to a lack of coordination and conflicting interests among stakeholders.
- Lack of public participation: Local communities, who are most affected by dams, often have little input in the planning and operation of dams, leading to a lack of transparency, accountability, and mistrust.
- Inefficiency in water usage: Many of India’s dams are not used efficiently, leading to the wastage of water, which is a major concern in a country where water is a precious resource.
- Lack of monitoring and surveillance: There is often a lack of monitoring and surveillance of dams, which makes it difficult to identify and address potential safety issues in a timely manner.
- Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) is not mandatory for all dams, leading to a lack of understanding of the impact of the dams on the environment and local communities
- Limited data availability: There is limited availability of data on the condition of dams, making it difficult to assess the risk of failure and plan for maintenance and repair.
- Limited resources: The government’s resources are often limited, which can make it difficult to address these concerns in a comprehensive and effective manner.
It is important to note that while there are concerns associated with the present system of dam management in India, the government has taken steps in recent years to improve the situation, such as setting up a National Dam Safety Organization and developing a National Dam Safety Policy.
The Indian government has taken several initiatives and efforts to improve dam construction and safety in the country. Some of the key government initiatives and laws include:
- National Dam Safety Policy (NDSP): In 2018, the Indian government created the National Dam Safety Policy (NDSP), which establishes standards for the administration and oversight of dam safety in India. The goal of the policy is to promote the use of innovative technology and best practices in managing dam safety while ensuring the safety of all dams, regardless of whether they fall under the purview of the federal or state governments.
- National Dam Safety Organization (NDSO): The Indian government established the NDSO in 2019 under the Ministry of Jal Shakti to coordinate national policies and programs pertaining to dam safety. By encouraging the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and top dam safety management techniques, as well as by offering training and capacity building to those responsible for managing dam safety, the NDSO seeks to increase dam safety.
- Central Water Commission (CWC): The Central Water Commission (CWC) is the principal organization in charge of ensuring the security of dams in India. It is in charge of keeping an eye on, checking on, and maintaining all of the nation’s dams that are supported by the federal government.
- State Dam Safety Organizations (SDSOs): Dams under the control of state governments are likewise subject to their safety obligations. State Dam Safety Organizations (SDSOs) have been established by numerous state governments to manage the security of dams within their borders and to work in tandem with the CWC.
- Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP): With support from the World Bank, the Indian government started the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) in 2012 to enhance the performance and safety of a number of the nation’s dams.
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977, and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, lay down guidelines for pollution control and management of water resources, including dams.
- The National Green Tribunal Act, of 2010: allows citizens to file complaints related to environmental damage caused by dams.
- The National Green Tribunal (NGT) is a specialized court that deals with environmental matters, including those related to dams.
- The Forest Conservation Act, of 1980: regulates the diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes, including dam construction.
It is important to note that the laws, policies, and initiatives for dam safety are in place but the implementation of these laws, policies and initiatives is not always effective.
The following duties associated with components of dam safety need to be strengthened:
- It is necessary to develop new acceptability standards for both the existing and upcoming dams.
- Dam safety assessments and MIS for Dams, including online databases for Dam registers.
- Acquisition and diffusion of technology on dam safety to state governments and organizations.
- Studies on dam breaks, glacial breaks, and the creation of emergency action plans
- Observing the application of the Dam Safety Law
- Technology advancement for effective restoration of troubled dams
- Establishing State and Central Dam Safety Services by legislation
Making informed judgments on dam safety requires a risk-based strategy. An essential component of a risk-based strategy for dam safety is dam failure analysis. A few of the institutional and technological underpinnings for developing a strong risk-based decision-making framework for this industry currently exist.
India can create a more secure and bear-resistant dam industry by making a few legislative adjustments and utilizing already established tools (such as WRIS and the MoEF environmental clearance portal).
Article Written by: Remya