$250 Million World Bank Project To Improve Dam Infrastructure In India

by Arun Kumar Das - Aug 6, 2021 11:09 AM +05:30 IST
$250 Million World Bank Project To Improve Dam Infrastructure In IndiaKabini Dam at Heggadadevankote province about 165 km south-west of Bengaluru.(STR/AFP/GettyImages)
  • The project will aim at improving safety and performance of existing dams across states by building new guidelines and bringing in global experience and technology.

The World Bank has signed a $250 million loan project with the Centre, the Central Water Commission (CWC) and 10 states, including Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, to support schemes to improve the safety and performance of existing dams across these states.

The Second Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP-2) will strengthen dam safety by building safety guidelines, bringing in global experience, and introducing innovative technologies.

The $250 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development has a maturity period of 13 years, including a grace period of six years, according to a World Bank statement.

Another major innovation envisaged under the project, likely to transform dam safety management in the country, is the introduction of a risk-based approach to dam asset management that will help to effectively allocate financial resources towards priority dam safety needs.

The project will be implemented in approximately 120 dams across Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Odisha, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, and at the national level through CWC. Other states or agencies may be added to the project during project implementation.

The Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, stated that “Dams provide critical infrastructure for power generation, flood moderation, and water supply for drinking, agriculture, and industrial use. Strengthening their structural safety and operational management will help in building better resilience to handle the effects of climate change. The Government of India has committed financial resources for a National Dam Safety Programme including phased project support from development partners”.

"This is the world’s largest dam management program. Its objective is to break the costly cycle of ‘build-neglect-rebuild’ which characterises the operations and maintenance of infrastructure across sectors," said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India.

"The expected outcomes will be game-changing: sustaining the livelihoods and food security of millions of Indians who depend on irrigated agriculture and enabling farmers to shift out of pumping groundwater, thereby, reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. This programme can act as a lighthouse for other countries tackling the challenge of managing hydraulic infrastructure."

India is home to over 5,000 large dams with a storage capacity of more than 300 billion cubic metres. Rainfall, which occurs mainly in intense and unpredictable downpours within short monsoon seasons, is of high temporal and spatial variability and does not meet year-round irrigation and other water demands.

Considering this, storage of water in dams is essential for the country’s economic growth and for the millions of people who rely on their waters to sustain livelihoods. With average annual cost of floods in India estimated at $7.4 billion, many dams are critical in mitigating floods. Their failure could pose serious risks to downstream communities.

World Bank support to dam safety in India includes the recently closed DRIP-1 ($279 million + $62 million additional financing) that improved the safety and sustainable performance of 223 dams in six states of India and one central agency.

"The DRIP-1 project helped to set up institutions, build capacity, and put in place procedures for dam safety. To build on these achievements, further measures are needed to channel scarce funds towards the dams at highest risk,” said Chabungbam Rajagopal Singh, senior water resources management specialist.

The DRIP-2 project will introduce risk-informed dam safety management, establish sustainable mechanisms for financing dam safety, and enhance the capabilities of institutions to manage dam assets.

Other important measures that DRIP-2 will support include flood forecasting systems and integrated reservoir operations that will contribute to building climate resilience; the preparation and implementation of emergency action plans to enable vulnerable downstream communities to prepare for and enhance resilience against the possible negative impacts and risks of climate change; and the piloting of supplemental revenue generation schemes such as floating solar panels.

Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at akdas2005@gmail.com.

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