“Cred­i­ble re­view of the safety of all large dams is es­sen­tial”

Governance Now - - SAFETY - Himanshu Thakkar, Co­or­di­na­tor, SAN­DRP

What are the most com­mon rea­sons of dam fail­ure and how ef­fec­tive do you think is decom­mis­sion­ing (both com­plete dis­man­tling and par­tial decom­mis­sion­ing) as a pro­posed so­lu­tion to the threat of age­ing dams?

There are many types of struc­tural fail­ure, in­clud­ing foun­da­tion fail­ure, over­top­ping, leak­age/seep­age, among oth­ers. Ad­di­tion­ally there is op­er­a­tional fail­ure as well. Cred­i­ble re­view of the safety of all large dams pe­ri­od­i­cally is es­sen­tial to en­sure its safety and re­duc­tion in pos­si­bil­i­ties of dis­as­ter. Such re­views can then also throw up the pos­si­bil­ity that it may be so­cioe­co­nom­i­cally more ben­e­fi­cial to dis­man­tle/de­com­mis­sion the dam.

Do you think there is un­will­ing­ness among our pol­i­cy­mak­ers when it comes to decom­mis­sion­ing large dams in the in­ter­est of the en­vi­ron­ment? If yes, what do you think are the

pos­si­ble rea­sons for the same?

It’s not just in the in­ter­est of en­vi­ron­ment, but there seems to be an ide­o­log­i­cal op­po­si­tion to any pro­posal of in­clud­ing decom­mis­sion­ing as part of the pol­icy/pro­gramme and prac­tices. The pro-dam ide­o­log­i­cal mind­set that is afraid that decom­mis­sion­ing means end of the era of dam build­ing could be a rea­son. The wa­ter re­source es­tab­lish­ment of the coun­try is best suited to an­swer that ques­tion.

What are some of the most im­por­tant les­sons we can learn from the US, which has pi­o­neered the dam re­moval move­ment?

It’s not just on dam re­moval and not just from USA, but there is a lot we can learn from other coun­tries in terms of how to deal with our dams, rivers and peo­ple more pru­dently, more demo­crat­i­cally, as if peo­ple and en­vi­ron­ment mat­ter. Specif­i­cally on dam re­moval, in­clud­ing in terms of dam man­age­ment, dis­as­ter man­age­ment, flood man­age­ment and river man­age­ment, there is a lot we can learn from USA in­clud­ing in terms of le­gal, in­sti­tu­tional set up and also reg­u­la­tory prac­tices and gov­er­nance. This in­cludes cred­i­ble pe­ri­odic as­sess­ment of the state of dams, their haz­ard po­ten­tial, dis­as­ter po­ten­tial and costs and ben­e­fits, how this process is trans­par­ent and par­tic­i­pa­tory and how the in­sti­tu­tions and gov­er­nance en­sures this. The readi­ness and abil­ity of the or­gan­i­sa­tions there to learn new as­pects and in­clude them in gov­er­nance is re­mark­able.

Some of the most evolved economies of the west like the US and Europe have al­most ceased to con­struct large dams. How­ever, In­dia is gear­ing up to dam many Hi­malayan rivers. What could be the long-term eco­log­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of such projects?

The trou­ble is we are not even do­ing cred­i­ble im­pact as­sess­ments, so we do not even know the full im­pact of all that we are do­ing in terms of dams and de­vel­op­ment and their im­pact on rivers. But there is no doubt that the im­pacts will be mas­sive – not only in terms of so­cial, en­vi­ron­men­tal and liveli­hood im­pacts, but also in terms of dis­as­ter po­ten­tial in­creas­ing many fold and also re­duc­ing so­ci­ety’s ca­pac­ity to deal with the in­creas­ing cli­mate change im­pacts.

The Dam Safety Bill is in­tended to de­velop uni­form, coun­try­wide pro­ce­dures for en­sur­ing the safety of dams in In­dia. What is your opin­ion about the pro­posed pol­icy?

The lat­est ver­sion of the bill is not yet in pub­lic do­main, but the ear­lier (2010) ver­sion of the bill did not in­spire con­fi­dence as it did not have pro­vi­sions for op­er­a­tional safety of the dam, role for in­de­pen­dent peo­ple in dam safety com­mit­tees and mech­a­nisms, pro­vi­sions for hold­ing the dam op­er­a­tors ac­count­able for mis­man­age­ment or ne­glect or wrong op­er­a­tions, pro­vi­sion for com­pen­sa­tion to the vic­tims who suf­fer due to such wrong op­er­a­tions, among oth­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.