The Centre suggested to the Supreme Court to let the Mullaperiyar dam supervisory committee continue for a year, by which time the National Dam Safety Authority under the new Dam Safety Act will become fully functional.
- The Dam Safety Act of 2021 has come as a panacea to end the prolonged and bitter legal battle over Mullaperiyar dam between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
- The 2021 Act comprehensively provides for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance to prevent disasters caused by dams.
- It mandates the setting up of two specialised bodies, National Committee on Dam Safety and the National Dam Safety Authority, to evolve policies, recommend regulations for dam safety standards and resolve disputes between States.
What is the dispute?
- Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been trading allegations against each other over the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam.
- While Kerala claims the 126-year-old dam is unsafe a threat to thousands of people living downstream, Tamil Nadu, argues that the dam is so strong that the height of water level could even be increased to 152 feet.
Mullaperiyar Dam –
- The Mullaperiyar dam is located on the confluence of the Mullayar and Periyar rivers in Kerala’s Idukki district.
- It is operated and maintained by Tamil Nadu government for meeting the drinking water and irrigation requirements of five of its southern districts. According to a 999-year lease agreement made during the British rule, the operational rights were handed over to Tamil Nadu.
- The dam intends to divert the waters of the west-flowing river Periyar eastward to the arid rain shadow regions of the Tamil Nadu.
Features of the Dam Safety Act –
- The Act provides for the surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of all specified dams across the country.
- These are dams with height more than 15 metres, or height between 10 metres to 15 metres with certain design and structural conditions.
- It constitutes two national bodies:
- the National Committee on Dam Safety, whose functions include evolving policies and recommending regulations regarding dam safety standards; and
- the National Dam Safety Authority, whose functions include implementing policies of the National Committee, providing technical assistance to State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs), and resolving matters between SDSOs of states or between a SDSO and any dam owner in that state.
- It also constitutes two state bodies: State Committee on Dam Safety, and State Dam Safety Organisation. These bodies will be responsible for the surveillance, inspection, and monitoring the operation and maintenance of dams within their jurisdiction.
- Functions of the national bodies and the State Committees on Dam Safety have been provided in Schedules to the Act. These Schedules can be amended by a government notification.
- An offence under the Act can lead to imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine, or both.