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NEW DELHI -- Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Sushri Uma Bharti has stressed the need for maintaining our vast dam resources in safe condition by recounting the dam incidents that have played havoc in the past. Inaugurating a workshop on lessons learnt from the ongoing Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) in New Delhi  she said, before releasing excess water from dams appropriate precautions need to be taken and people downstream should be warned to ensure their preparedness to reduce the consequences and prevent loss of life.

 She commended the good work being done under the ongoing dam rehabilitation and improvement project and exhorted all the State Governments to identify the dams which are in need of rehabilitation and take appropriate actions to ensure their safety and operational performance. While referring to the abundance of water resources in India, the Minister said, “We are not fully harnessing these resources and even our existing dams are not operating at their optimal efficiency”. She also emphasized the need for exploring the tourism potential of our existing dams and exploit the same.

Sushri Uma Bharti launched the Hindi version of DRIP Website: www.damsafety.in. on the occasion. She also released the Compendium of Technical Papers pertaining to the Second National Dam Safety Conference organized in Bengaluru during 12-13 January 2016 and the ‘Guidelines for Preparation of Emergency Action Plans for Dams’ prepared under DRIP to facilitate development of Emergency Action Plans for all dams on the occasion.

Prof. Sanwar Lal Jat, Union Minister of State for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation said that India has very long history of dam building and emphasised the need for continuing surveillance, inspection and maintenance of dams for ensuring their safety and performance. He complimented DRIP team for preparing the guidelines for the Development of Emergency Action Plans and stressed the need for its implementation in all the large dams.

  Shashi Shekhar, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources mentioned the food scarcity prevailing in the fifties when we were dependent on import of food grains. He said with the construction of several large dams we have improved our water availability for irrigation and power and in turn we are now self-sufficient in food production. While stressing the need for safety of dams, the Secretary referred to the legislative support in the form of a Bill being pursued by the Government mandating regular inspection and maintenance and rehabilitation of dams.

Dr. Amarjit Singh, Special Secretary, in the Ministry recollected the enormous loss of lives on account of the failure of Machu dam. He recounted his association with DRIP right from initial stages of implementation of the project and complimented the dedicated efforts of the personnel involved in the management of DRIP. He also stressed the need for continuance of the DRIP like programmes for benefitting the dams which are not part of the current programme.

  G.S. Jha, Chairman, Central Water Commission gave the background of the DRIP project which is targeting rehabilitation of about 250 dams in seven States. He underlined the need for creating more storage of water through large, medium and small dams to fulfil our increasing demand for water.

About 150 delegates from Water Resources Departments of 16 States, World Bank, CWC and other agencies attended the day long workshop. The Workshop included two sessions covering the themes ‘Dam Safety Concerns & Initiatives in India’ and ‘DRIP Implementation Experiences’ and an Open House to brainstorm on setting up Nationwide Programme for Dam Safety Rehabilitation.

Government of India embarked on the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) with loan assistance from the World Bank for rehabilitation and improvement of about 250 dams in seven States. The six-year DRIP project, started in April, 2012 is in mid-way through its implementation.

Concern was expressed in several forums about the urgent need for rehabilitation of several large dams which are experiencing distress conditions, across all States, to ensure their safety and operational efficiency. In view of the complex nature of issues involved in rehabilitation of these ageing large dams, it was felt appropriate to draw on the experience of DRIP implementation in sensitizing the dam safety concerns and to determine strategies for undertaking this enormous task. Accordingly, this workshop was organised on the subject.

The workshop discussed experience gained by the country in mitigation of the distress conditions of large dams and also on the lessons learnt in three years of DRIP implementation in the rehabilitation of dams. The recommendations emerging out of this workshop will help in determining the strategies for undertaking the large scale rehabilitation work and for managing the technical, managerial and financial resources required to implement the mammoth task.

There are about 4900 large dams in India and about 80 % of them are over 25 years old. The old dams designed and built to withstand certain levels of flood and earthquake and may not meet the revised estimates based on information gathered over the period. The design practices and safety considerations prevailing at that time also do not match with the current design standards and the safety norms. The engineering properties of the foundation or the material used to build the dams can deteriorate over time. Owing to these factors and issues of differed maintenance, some of the dams may be experiencing distress and require urgent repairs to ensure their safety and restore their operational reliability.

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