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Bill proposes to enhance powers of Dam Safety Authority

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Roy Mathew

Bill to be considered at special session of Assembly that begins tomorrow

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Bill, to be considered by the special session of the Assembly on Tuesday, seeks to prohibit the raising of the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam beyond 136 feet.

The Bill proposes to enhance the powers of the Dam Safety Authority to evaluate safety and security of all dams in the State and give directions on measures to be taken to ensure safety, including the decommissioning of dams.

Separate schedule

The Bills seeks to include 10 old dams in the State in a separate schedule and fix their reservoir levels.

It says that no Government, custodian of dam or any other agency shall increase the full reservoir level of the dams specified in the schedule notwithstanding any other law, judgment, decree, order or direction of any court or any treaty, contract or agreement.

Powers of the Authority

The Authority, however, will have the powers to permit works for increasing the storage capacity of dams, according to another provision in the Bill.

Any ongoing work to enhance the capacity of dams should be stopped pending prior clearance by the Authority.

The Authority will have wide ranging powers to oversee the safety and other aspects of the dam on enactment of the Bill.

It can direct the custodian of any dam to suspend the functioning of any dam, to decommission any dam or restrict the functioning of any dam if public safety or threat to human life or property so requires.

It will have powers: To evaluate the safety and security of all dams in the State, considering among other factors, the age of the structure, geological and seismic factors, degeneration or degradation caused over time;

To conduct periodical inspections of all the dams;

To direct the custodian to carry out any alteration, improvement, replacement or strengthening measures to any dam found to pose a threat to human life and property;

Advisory powers

To advise the Government on security measures to be adopted in respect of any dam considering its vulnerability to terrorism, sabotage and the like;

To advise the Government, custodian, or other agencies about policies and procedures to be followed in site investigation, design, construction, operation and maintenance of dams;

To conduct studies, inspect and advise the custodians or any other agency on the advisability of raising or lowering of the maximum water level or full reservoir level of any dam, not being a scheduled dam, taking into account the safety of the dam concerned; and

To conduct studies, inspect and advise the custodian or any agency on the sustainability or suitability of any dam, not being a scheduled dam, to hold water in its reservoir/catchment area and to direct strengthening measures or require the construction or commissioning of a new dam within a prescribed time frame.

Other functions

The Government can also assign other functions to the Authority by notification in the official gazette.

The Authority will have powers of a civil court while dealing with applications before it and its proceedings will be deemed to be judicial. No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the Authority or its officials.

The Bill also has provisions to ensure compliance with its orders, including take over of the dams.

Nomination

The Bill further seeks to empower the Government to nominate two public men to the Authority, which is headed by a person of the rank of a High Court judge.

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