TN Assembly resolution urges Centre to ‘keep in abeyance’ Dam Safety bill

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Chennai, June 26 (PTI): The Tamil Nadu Assembly on Tuesday adopted a “unanimous” resolution, urging the Centre to “keep in abeyance” all efforts towards enacting the ‘Dam Safety Bill 2018’ and called for evolving a consensus on the matter with all states.

A special government resolution moved by Chief Minister K Palaniswami in the state Assembly received the full support of the DMK-led opposition, even as the resolution highlighted possible “problems” that could crop up over the operation and maintenance of dams by Tamil Nadu located in other states.

In his remarks before moving the resolution, Palaniswami recalled late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s opposition to earlier draft bills on the issue in 2010 and 2016, and said the latest one could affect operation and maintenance of dams including the Mullaperiyar located in neighbouring Kerala.

He said the 2010 draft during the UPA regime was withdrawm by the then government on Jayalalithaa’s insistence. In 2016 also, she had opposed another dam safety bill, voicing views against some of its provisions,including setting up a National Dam Authority, he said, adding she had taken up the matter with the Centre.

Following inter-state agreements that were upheld by the Supreme Court, the ownership of a dam rested with the state that constructed it, even if the reservoir was located in a different state, Palaniswami said.

Accordingly, four dams– Mullaperiar, Parambikulam, Thoonakkadavu and Peruvarippallam in Kerala had been constructed, operated and maintained by Tamil Nadu as per agreements with the neighbouring state, he said.

The chief minister said the Centre had not sought Tamil Nadu’s views on the latest bill and said it had provisions that would “harm” the state. “Particularly, there could be problems over operation and maintenance of Mullaperiar, Parambikulam, Thoonakkadavu and Peruvarippallam dams in Kerala,” he said.

Therefore, he had earlier written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking to keep the bill in abeyance till states were consulted and a consensus evolved, Palaniswami said.

Recalling the two Supreme Court orders of 2006 and 2014 that allowed Tamil Nadu to raise the water level in the Mullaperiar dam, initially to 142 feet and subsequently to 152 feet following strengthening works, he said the state government was taking all efforts to raise the storage level to the maximum.

“Kerala is not cooperating with Tamil Nadu’s strengthening works and is creating hurdles,” he charged.

However, Tamil Nadu was taking steps to overcome the hurdles and complete the works, he added.

“In this situation, if the Centre enacts the proposed dam safety bill, under the garb of dam safety, there could be hurdles for Tamil Nadu over maintenance of Mullaperiar, Parambikulam, Thoonakkadavu and Peruvarippallam dams,” he said.

The resolution moved by Palaniswami today said the Dam Safety Bill 2018 had provisions that could “affect Tamil Nadu’s rights” as well as impact the operation and maintenance of dams located in other states.

“This House urges the Centre to keep in abeyance all efforts towards enacting the proposed Dam Safety Bill (2018) into a law till states are consulted and a consensus evolved,” the resolution said.

DMK Deputy Leader Durai Murugan, who spoke on the resolution, said the bill was “yet another proof that Centre is acting in an authoritarian manner,” and welcomed and supported the resolution on behalf of his party.

DMK’s allies– Congress and IUML, also expressed their support to the government on the matter.

Later, after going for a voice vote, Speaker P Dhanapal said the resolution was “unanimously adopted.”

Earlier this month, Palaniswami had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking to “keep in abeyance” the dam safety bill, recalling the state’s earlier objections to it.

DMK Working President and Leader of the Opposition, M K Stalin had demanded that a resolution be adopted in the ongoing session of the Assembly on this matter.

The Bill seeks to constitute a national committee on dam safety which shall evolve safety policies and recommend necessary regulations.

It provides for establishment of a National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body which shall discharge functions to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country.

In certain cases, such as dams of one state falling under the territory of another, the authority shall also perform the role of the State Dam Safety Organisation, thereby eliminating potential causes for inter-state conflicts.

The Bill also provides for constitution of a State Committee on Dam Safety by the state governments.

The provisions of the Bill also lay onus of dam safety on the owner and provides for penal provisions for commission and omission of certain acts.

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