Malviya National Institute of Technology (MNIT) in Jaipur has been identified as the National Centre for Earthquake Safety of Dams, the first centre of its kind in the country. The centre will develop indigenous capabilities in making the country self-reliant in handling technology issues related to structural and earthquake safety of dams.
Earthquake shaking is considered the most significant threat to the safety of dams. Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA), functioning under the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti, the new centre will work intensively with dam engineers, regulators and policy makers.
MNIT Director Narayan Prasad Padhy said here that the centre would conduct a pilot study of select dams across the country to develop and revise safety standards, and review the Central Water Commission’s manuals related to the earthquake safety of dams. The institute will later enter into some international collaborations as well.
Prof. Padhy, who has research experience in electrical engineering, said a special law on the subject — the Dam Safety Act, 2021 — had recognised the issue of safety of major dams as a matter of national importance and priority, surpassing State boundaries. “The capacity building of academic and research institutions is an urgent need to meet the challenge of ensuring the safety of dams,” Prof. Padhy said.
The Dam Safety Act provides for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams for the prevention of dam failure-related disasters. The legislation also provides for an institutional mechanism to ensure safe functioning of dams.
The number of specified dams in the country is over 5,500 and about 70 of them are those of national importance. “Large dams are high-risk structures, whose operational failure may lead to uncontrolled and sudden release of impounded water. This in turn will have catastrophic consequences on life, property and the ecology,” Prof. Padhy said.
Amid a growing concern over the structural and earthquake safety of ageing dams, the centre is expected to play a significant role in evolving new norms for their protection. The Ministry of Jal Shakti has approved a financial grant of ₹30 crore for establishing and running the centre for the next five years.
Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said at the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremony here that the Central government was working in a “mission mode” towards the safety and maintenance of dams. More than 25% of the country’s dams have completed over 50% of their lifespan, while several of them are a few hundred years old, he said.
The Central Water Commission’s Chairperson Kushvinder Vohra and NDSA Chairperson Sanjay Kumar Sibal were among those present on the occasion.