TN CM requests PM to Dam Safety Bill in abeyance

TN CM requests PM to Dam Safety Bill in abeyance

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edapadi K. Palaniswami. PTI file photo

The Tamil Nadu government on Friday urged the Centre to keep in abeyance its decision to enact a Dam Safety Bill, recalling it had earlier raised some objections and that it had not received any revised draft on the matter thereafter.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister K Palaniswami requested that the decision arrived at by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday to legislate the Act on the Dam Safety Bill, 2018, be kept in abeyance till all states were consulted and a consensus was evolved.

He said late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had earlier raised objections to "certain clauses" of the draft Bill, 2016 "since they encroach upon powers of state governments and also rights conferred on the state by virtue of Inter-State Agreements on dams owned, operated and maintained by the Government of Tamil Nadu but located in another state."

The state had earlier urged the Centre that the legislation should be re-examined and should not be "proceeded with in haste, without considering objections raised by Tamil Nadu threadbare."

"The Government of India has not circulated any revised draft after 2016 and it is presumed that the Bill in its original form has been approved by the Union Cabinet."

"This Bill would have wide ramifications on dams operated and maintained by (a) state government, especially those dams which are owned operated and maintained by the Government of Tamil Nadu, but are located in the neighbouring state," he said in an apparent reference to the Mullaperiar dam located in neighbouring Kerala.

The Mullaperiar dam located in Kerala's Idukki district is owned and operated by Tamil Nadu and the two states are at loggerheads over its safety and storage level.

The Supreme Court had in May 2014 held that the dam was safe, and allowed Tamil Nadu to raise the storage level to 142 ft initially and to 152 ft later after completing strengthening efforts on the reservoir.

In his letter today, Palaniswami said he considered "it appropriate that consensus of all the states be obtained before bringing forward such a legislation on dam safety."

"In the circumstances, I request you to kindly keep in abeyance the decision arrived at by the Government of India to legislate an Act on dam safety till such time all the states are consulted and the consensus is evolved," he said.

The Union Cabinet had on Wednesday approved a proposal for enacting the Dam Safety Bill 2018, which will help states and union territories to adopt uniform safety procedures to ensure the safety of reservoirs.

The Bill seeks to constitute a national committee on dam safety which shall evolve safety policies and recommend necessary regulations, Union Minister Piyush Goyal had said on Wednesday.

The Bill provides for the establishment of National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body which shall discharge functions to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country.

In certain cases, such as dams of one state falling under the territory of another, the authority shall also perform the role of State Dam Safety Organisation, thereby eliminating potential causes for inter-state conflicts.

The legislation will address all issues concerning dam safety including regular inspection, emergency action plan, comprehensive safety review, adequate repair and maintenance funds for dam safety, instrumentation and safety manuals.

The Bill also provides for constitution of a State Committee on Dam Safety by the state governments.

The provisions of the Bill also lay onus of dam safety on the dam owner and provides for penal provisions for commission and omission of certain acts.

The draft bill was finalised after wide consultation with leading experts and international experts, Goyal had said.