Recently, the outer part of the Karam Dam, being built on the Karam River, a tributary of the Narmada, collapsed. With the increasing incidence of dam failures in India, questions arise on policies regarding dam management and its accountability.
What is a dam?
A dam is defined as a barrier constructed across a stream, river, or estuary to limit and check the flow of water for uses such as human consumption, irrigation, flood control and electric-power generation.
Recently dams are seen more as hydroelectric generators with flood mitigation, irrigation and drinking water supply. However, globally about 2.2% of dams built before 1950 fail mainly due to floods, insufficient spillway capacity, poor workmanship etc.
India ranks third globally with 5264 large dams in operation and about 437 under construction. But India also has a poor record of dam failures. More than 36 failure cases have been registered here so far. The Ist failure was recorded in MP (Madhya Pradesh in 1917) when the “Tigra Dam” failed due to overtopping.
Floods caused by dams in india
If we talk about the floods due to this in India, then the floods in Uttarakhand (June 2013), Tehri (September 2010), Hirakud (2009, 2011, 2014), Damodar Dam (many years), Krishna Basin Dam (2006, October) 2009), there are many such examples. This is due to faulty operation of dams, flooding in downstream areas.
Need for dam safety in india
More than 75% of the country’s dams are more than 25 years old and about 164 dams are more than 100 years old. As the number of dams is increasing and getting older, so are the dams prone to rupture. Ensuring dam safety is essential to safeguard the huge investment in infrastructure.
It is also important for the protection of human life and properties of people living under dams.
What are the major concerns dam management system?
This includes various structural deficiencies, deficiencies in operation and monitoring facilities, such that the structure does not meet the current design standard. Be it structural or hydrological.
Many government initiatives have been taken towards dam safety
(1) Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) – launched in 2012 with the World Bank to improve the safety and operational performance of selected dams along with institutional strengthening with a system-wide management approach.
(2)Dam Health and Rehabilitation Monitoring Application (DHARMA)-It is a web-based software package to support effective collection and management of dam safety data in respect of all major dams in India. This software is designed for users at the Central, State and Dam level, with user permission rights governed by their respective licenses. (3) Seismic Hazard Mapping with Development of Seismic Risk Assessment Information System (SHAISYS)- This web being developed at CWC under Dam Safety Organization (DSO) to estimate the seismic hazard at any point in Indian territory- based interactive application tool. SHAISYS will be able to estimate seismic hazard using deterministic as well as probabilistic approach.