The Dam Safety Bill will be introduced during Parliament’s monsoon session beginning July 18 amid Tamil Nadu’s opposition to the Centre’s proposal to oversee the safety of dams in shared territories between states.

“The states, which have dams in other states, are generally not allowed inspections and supervision. So in order to resolve the disputes (arising out of it), the central government will be made responsible for the safety of (such) dams,’’ said an official on the condition of anonymity while referring to such dams in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

The official said the absence of safety regulations is a major concern as states are generally unwilling to share safety data and at times go for alterations in structures, which can be dangerous.

The bill proposes formation of centrally-regulated bodies — the National Regulatory Committee and National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) — to devise safety policies, implement guidelines and recommend regulations.

The states have been unable to enforce dam safety guidelines effectively. The bill proposes to address this by having NDSA and state-level bodies responsible for enforcing the safety regulations. The NDSA shall also perform the role of dam safety organisations to prevent inter-state conflicts in case dams of one state fall within the territory of another.

The Centre insists ownership of the dams in such cases will not change as it will be responsible for safety. The bill proposes to give the Centre the right to access the dams without prior permission. The states want a state owning, operating and maintaining a dam to be recognised and treated as its owner responsible for its safety.

The bill seeks to prevent disasters and maintain safety standards by proposing to put country’s 5,651 dams under
central supervision. Tamil Nadu has four dams — Mullaperiyar, Parambikulam, Thunakadavu and Peruvaripallam — in Kerala as per water sharing agreements.

A litigation over the Mullaperiyar Dam, which Kerala says floods its territory, is in the Supreme Court. Kerala refuses to allow an increase in dam’s water level, which Tamil Nadu argues has led to losses because it has been unable to use the dam fully.

The Union cabinet approved the Dam Safety Bill in June, prompting Tamil Nadu CM K Palaniswami to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The new Dam Protection Bill would interfere with the existing agreements between the states to protect and maintain dams,” he wrote to PM.

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