An autonomous research institute under the Ministry of Finance


Dam Safety in India

Publication date

Mar, 2021


NIPFP Working Paper No. 329


Devendra Damle


India has 5334 large dams; the largest number of dams in the world after USA and China. This number is set to increase in the coming years as India constructs more dams to meet the rising demand for electricity and water. Constructing dams exposes downstream areas to the risk of catastrophic flooding — in the event the dam fails or water has to be released in an emergency. Adopting risk-based decision-making systems for making policy, implementation and management decisions regarding dams are crucial for mitigating this risk. Conducting dam break analyses is a basic requirement for creating such a system. In the existing regulatory system, clearance for constructing new dams requires the builder to conduct a dam break analysis. However, there is no standardisation in how the dam break analyses are conducted and reported. It is also unclear how many projects actually comply with this requirement. There is no statutory requirement for conducting a consequence analysis to estimate the likely loss of life and property, and economic damage in the event of dam failure. Existing design standards for dams are not based on the risk created by the dam, but rather on their heights and storage capacities. Further, there is no centralised system for documenting and reporting actual dam failures, which is another crucial component of dam risk mitigation. Putting in place systems for regularly conducting dam break analyses, regular reporting of dam failure events, and ready public availability of such data is a necessary precondition for the development of risk-based decision-making systems to mitigate risk from dams.
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