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December 5, 2023 @ 7:00 am - 11:30 pm


The recent Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in Sikkim, causing substantial damage to the Teesta-III hydropower project, has brought the issue of dam safety in India to the forefront. This discussion delves into the state of dam infrastructure, the concerning record of dam safety, reasons behind the poor safety standards, expert suggestions, and government initiatives aimed at addressing these challenges.

Status of Dam Infrastructure in India:

India stands as the 3rd most dammed country globally, boasting a total of 6,138 large dams.

The Himalayan rivers contribute significantly to India’s hydropower, generating around 25,000MW, approximately 65% of the total potential.

Status of Dam Safety:

India’s dam safety record is worrisome, marked by 42 documented cases of dam failures according to the National Dam Safety Authority.

Notable incidents include the Machchu dam failure in 1979, claiming 2,000 lives, and dam-induced floods like the Hirakud incident in the Mahanadi basin.

Reasons for Poor Dam Safety:

Ageing Dams: Approximately 80% of India’s large dams are over 25 years old, with 234 exceeding 100 years, challenging their designed lifespan.

Lack of Performance Assessment: Absence of mechanisms to assess the viability and performance of dams adds to safety concerns.

Unscientific Operation: Operational flaws, such as ignoring seismic factors and unscientific water release strategies, contribute to safety risks.

Non-Decommissioning: Challenges in retiring dams due to policy gaps, socio-economic concerns, and the laborious decommissioning process.

Expert Suggestions for Dam Safety in the Himalayas:

Strict Monitoring of Glacial Lakes: Himalayan glaciers’ receding nature necessitates regular monitoring, including maintaining an updated inventory of Glacial Lakes every five years.

Climate Assessment of Hydropower Projects: Evaluate climate change impact on projects in the fragile Himalayan region to address associated risks and vulnerabilities.

GLOF Assessment and Mitigation: Anticipate Glacial Lake Outburst Floods and integrate effective mitigation measures into Himalayan hydropower projects.

Mountain Regulation Zone (MRZ): Introduce a regulatory zone akin to coastal regulation, governing large infrastructure projects in mountainous regions.

In-built SOPs in Dam Designs: Incorporate special operating procedures in dam designs to handle eventualities like flash floods.

Government Initiatives:

DRIP II and DRIP III Scheme:

The Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project aims to rehabilitate 736 dams across 19 states by 2031, addressing issues like seepage, dam drainage, and increased flood resilience.

Dam Safety Act, 2021:

Enforces a comprehensive framework for surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of large dams, with standardized safety practices nationwide.


As dam safety gains prominence in light of recent incidents, government initiatives like the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project and the Dam Safety Act are steps towards addressing pressing concerns. However, sustained efforts, expert input, and a comprehensive approach are essential to avert potential disasters and ensure robust dam safety in India.


December 5, 2023
7:00 am - 11:30 pm
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