With several dams across the country being nearly half-a-century old, the Government on Thursday approved a legislation which seeks to monitor their safety at regular intervals.

The draft legislation, which received a nod of the Union Cabinet, aims to establish an institutional system to regularly monitor the safety of large dams, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters here.

The new legislation will help the States in adopting uniform dam safety procedures which will ensure safety of dams and safeguard benefits derived from them.

The legislation also provides for proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of large dams against risks associated with ‘dam failures’

The bill seeks to enjoin responsibility on central government, State governments and owners of specified dams to set up an institutional mechanism for ensuring safety of such structures and reporting the action taken.

While some States like Bihar have their own dam safety laws, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have authorised Parliament to enact a law in this regard.

As per constitutional provisions, if two or more States authorise Parliament to make a law on a State subject, the Centre can pass a law. Other States can pass a resolution in their legislatures to adopt the Central law. Water is a State subject.

With several private players now involved in operating dams, they would also be covered under the proposed law.

Under the new bill, a Dam Safety Cell will be set up at the project level, while a Dam Safety Organisation will be constituted at the State level.

Another similar organisation will be established at the level of the owner of the dam. The owner could either be government or a private operator.

The operators will have the obligation to allow inspections by experts to ascertain safety of the structure.

According to the National Register of Large Dams, 2009, India has 4,710 completed dams, while 390 dams are under construction.

More In: National | News | Delhi | States