‘Larger dams needed to increase water storage capacity’

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Jan 23: Union Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on Tuesday stressed the need to build larger dams in India for increasing river water storage capacity to meet demands of population growth, economic growth and sustainable development.
Speaking after inaugurating the two-day ‘International Dam Safety Conference’ here, he said it was estimated that it was possible to create total river water storage capacity of about 690 billion cubic meters (BCM) in India. Against this less than 300 BCM storage has been created by building dams in the country so far, Meghwal said.
“Thus there is a need to construct more large dams to meet the demands of population growth, economic growth and sustainable development,” the minister for water resources and river development said.
Stressing the importance of dam safety and regular maintenance of existing ones, he said there was also an urgent need to safeguard each and every dam.
“Most of the existing dams are considerably old. Close to 80 per cent of the dams are more than 25 years old,” he said adding India has a total of 4,254 large dams and 447 are under construction.
“Health and safety of dams are of paramount importance for the sustainable utilization of these valuable assets, besides protecting lives, environment and property,” he said.
The minister also said that many existing dams are facing various degree of inadequacies in meeting India’s health and safety standards, if compared to developed nations.
In this regard, the ongoing World Bank aided Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) would have a second phase with a total outlay of Rs 9,000 crore to strengthen about 600 larger dams.
Meghwal said 18 states have already given their proposal to be included in the second phase.
Underscoring the importance of dam safety, he said India also has the experience of dam failures in the past, resulting in loss of lives and property.
Central Water Commission Chairman S Masood Husain said the current six year DRIP programme launched in 2012 at an estimated cost of Rs 2,100 crore was for rehabilitating 223 dams in seven states.
“However, the first phase was extended for two years until 2020 to finish all of the programmed rehabilitation works with a revised estimate of Rs 3,466 crore,” he said.
Kerala Power Minister MM Mani said there was need to strengthen the safety of existing dams because of opposition from environmentalists to building new dams.
State Water Resources Minister Mathew T Thomas wanted a review of existing guidelines and norms for safety of dams in the country.
The conference, jointly organised by the Central Water Commission, Kerala Water Resources Department and Kerala State Electricity Board, is being attended by a large number of dam safety experts from the country and abroad.
The World Bank’s lead dam specialist Satoru Ueda, President of the International Commission of Large Dams Anton L Schleiss, and Chief Executive Officer, Australian Water Partnership, Nicholas Schofield are among experts taking part at the meet. (PTI)