Many Indian dams are in urgent need of safety upgrades. The country has over 10,000 dams more than 8m high — the state of Madhya Pradesh alone has over 4000 structures in this category — and in the event of dam failure, these can pose potential risks to thousands of downstream residents, property and infrastructure. In addition, the loss of irrigation projects could cause water shortages for rural populations.

To address some of the priorities and to strengthen the institutional framework in India, the World Bank has been funding a Dam Safety Assurance and Rehabilitation Project (DSARP) since 1991. This includes, as participants, the Indian government’s Central Water Commission (CWC) and the States of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

For India a primary need in dam safety is to maximise the effectiveness of limited financial resources by allocating money to improve the safety of those dams which pose the greatest risks. With this in mind, DSARP included the development of a rational process for identification and prioritisation based on risk analysis.

In January 1999 BC Hydro, through its international subsidiary BC Hydro International (BCHIL), was awarded a contract by the Central Water Commission to deliver a workshop and training on dam safety and risk analysis, and to develop guidelines on dam safety. Since this was a precursor to any future phases of DSARP, the schedule was tight with completion in only seven months.

The contract required specific targets to be met. From the outset it was apparent that a rigid approach using lectures and fixed presentations would have limited benefits for the recipients. So BC Hydro staff developed a process that achieved the objectives of the project by using a flexible approach to meet the needs of the delegates, their culture and the organisations in which they worked.

The entire approach focused on three clear challenges:

•Tailoring the training to the Indian context.

•Developing relevant guidelines for use in India.

•Incorporating risk-based components.

The BC Hydro team initially developed a project plan which outlined the series of training modules designed to achieve the objectives, identified which dam safety specialists would deliver the training and fixed key milestones for cost and timing. Extensive documentation was prepared to support the training modules. This was provided to the delegates in hard-copy and CD-Rom format. Supporting material, papers and a bibliography were also assembled.

Facilitated interactive sessions, where a series of questions or statements was put forward to the delegates who were divided into groups, were to be a key to the success of the project. Training of the trainers was carried out in a variety of techniques designed to involve the participants in their own learning. Project materials were developed to complement this approach. These included the effective use of video case studies, gap analyses and a ‘thinking hats’ session. The latter was a fun way of drawing together all the themes of the week and proved to be a hit with the delegates. It was a valuable tool for identifying issues more clearly.

Two weeks of training in India

The initial phase of the project (Task 1) consisted of a two-week dam safety training workshop in New Delhi. This training included comparisons of Indian guidelines with other international guidelines; case studies of dam safety projects in Canada; risk analysis; operation, maintenance and surveillance; flood and earthquake assessment of dams; emergency planning; and project management. As part of the training, a field visit was made to Kotwol dam which is presently being upgraded by the State of Madyha Pradesh.

At the outset it was decided by BCHIL to use Task 1 not only to provide dam safety training, but also to obtain feedback from the Indian engineers on their existing guidelines, their working environment and any potential limitations on the application of dam safety guidelines. Extensive use was made of facilitated sessions. These are not a familiar training format in India and it was recognised that this approach might have limitations. In practice, although the Indian engineers acknowledged it was a new experience, they became so actively involved that it was sometimes difficult to conclude the sessions.

Key questions examined during these sessions focused on similarities and differences between the Canadian Dam Association (CDA) dam safety guidelines and Indian dam safety guidelines and standards. Key differences were revealed between the two. Indian guidelines, where they existed, tended to be prescriptive, focusing on methodology. For this reason they could not be put into legislation without the undesirable side-effect of legislating engineering practice. The CDA guidelines focus on what must be done to ensure a safe dam and the methodology is left to good practice. After much discussion, the Indian delegates agreed that basing new guidelines on Canadian practice would best meet their needs.

The CDA, a non-profit body, as part of its mandate disseminates dam safety information to a wide audience. The original version of the guidelines had been presented at seminars in Malaysia and in Bhopal, India in 1995. Two BC Hydro staff had been part of the CDA session sponsored by the Canadian International Development agency. The CDA therefore graciously gave approval for the use of their guidelines as a platform for the Indian guidelines, and provided an electronic copy to use as a base.

Preparation for Canada

The workshop in Delhi identified the benefits of dam safety guidelines for India following the CDA format of expressing what should be done to ensure dam safety, not how it should be done. The challenge was to develop the guidelines for India and familiarise the Indian delegates with these guidelines, while carrying out dam safety training at the same time. It was addressed as follows:

•BC Hydro staff had already been instrumental in instigating and preparing the CDA dam safety guidelines. It was clear that the dam safety training modules could easily be linked to the CDA guidelines for all but the area of risk analysis. Here, entirely new guidelines would have to be developed, along with appropriate training.

•In interactive sessions, the CDA guidelines could be modified to suit Indian conditions. This would allow the Indian engineers to apply their knowledge of the financial, technical and management problems in India to the development of dam safety guidelines which would be suitable for, and accepted in, India. It would also increase their familiarity with the developed guidelines and help them take ownership of the final product. It would be up to the BCHIL engineers in the interactive sessions to provide the rationale behind the various sections of the CDA guidelines, and provide guidance on the reasonableness and application of any changes proposed by the Indian delegates.

•Training modules could be linked to each section of the guidelines, which focussed on their application and the latest related engineering techniques.

The training for each section of the guidelines followed a set format. A session of three to five hours, led by a subject matter expert, was held with the Indian delegates. During these sessions the CDA dam safety guidelines were projected on a large screen using a laptop computer and reviewed line by line. Additions, deletions, clarifications, or changes were made directly on the electronic master to reflect the Indian conditions. Changes typically reflected such factors as financial responsibility; the individual responsibility of engineers (given that funding for required work may not be available); delegation of authority; limitations imposed by available data on estimation of floods and earthquakes; differences in the hydrology of India from that in Canada; and differences in study methodology. This latter point was, for the most part, eliminated by ensuring that the guidelines were made non-prescriptive (ie did not say how studies were to be carried out). During these sessions the Indian engineers participated very actively and made significant input to the new guidelines. In this way they also took ownership of them.

Following the sessions on the guidelines, the delegates received 1.5-2 days of training on the application of the guidelines they had developed. The methodology ranged from lectures to field trips, to facilitated sessions as required. Primarily BC Hydro engineers, who combined technical expertise with dam safety experience in applying the CDA dam safety guidelines, gave the training. External experts were brought in for specific topics, such as alkali reactive concrete, which are not normally a problem in British Columbia but are often a problem in India. Other outside expertise was brought in from the dam safety regulatory side so that the Indian delegates could see safety issues from the governance, as well as the ownership, perspective. A feedback loop completed the process and the guidelines were assessed for the need for any revisions after the application training.

Although a great deal of effort was expended on the development of the India dam safety guidelines, a far greater effort was exerted on application training. Delegates were given the latest information and techniques on dam safety reviews, operation, maintenance and surveillance; emergency preparedness, flood and earthquake selections; and geotechnical and structural analysis for dam safety. Particular emphasis was placed on the importance of determining the incremental consequence category of dams as it is the key to relating loads on the dams to their required ability to withstand the loads.

The session on risk analysis for dam safety required the development of guidelines, as well as the preparation of training materials. For this part of the Indian dam safety guidelines, two chapters were developed: risk analysis, and analysing the safety of dam systems. These newly developed sections were reviewed with the Indian delegates in the usual manner. The post-risk training review was important as they had a better understanding of risk principles, and could make more relevant comments on the draft guidelines.

The training in risk analysis, a completely new topic to the Indian officers, had to be given in more detail. Much of this training focussed on failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA), and failure modes effects and criticality analysis (FMECA). The training started with a lecture session based on an FMEA carried out for one of BC Hydro’s dams. With this background, the delegates made an inspection of BC Hydro’s Ruskin dam, and working in teams drafted an FMEA/FMECA for the dam. BC Hydro’s engineers then critiqued this FMEA/FMECA.

This gave the Indian delegates the experience not only of risk analysis, but also of teamwork and interaction with subject matter experts. Additional risk analysis training, given in lecture format, included fault tree and event tree analysis. Overall, the risk analysis training served more as an introduction than a full-scale course which would have required many weeks of lectures and practical sessions. It will be up to the delegates to develop their skills in this area by applying them to their own local problems with expert guidance. At the completion of the six weeks training session in Canada, a draft set of India dam safety guidelines had been prepared, including two new sections on risk analysis. Because these guidelines had significant Indian review and input, the delegates had a strong sense of ownership. In addition, the delegates had a good understanding of the draft guidelines and their application.


As part of the training process in India and Canada, written feedback was obtained from the Indian delegates on a regular basis. In almost all cases this was very positive and gave the BC Hydro engineers the opportunity to fine-tune the programme on an ongoing basis, maximising the benefits for the delegates.

It was indicated that FMEA and FMECA were considered to be the most important aspects of the training, along with operation, maintenance and surveillance. The delegates also indicated that definition of responsibilities was an important aspect of the guidelines, and they expressed a desire for further training in risk analysis and case studies of FMECA. Overall they felt that the training had given them a good base for building and implementing new Indian dam safety guidelines.

Accepting the guidelines

The six weeks of training in Vancouver essentially completed the dam safety training portion of the project. The next session, for one week in New Delhi, India, focused mainly on presenting the draft Indian dam safety guidelines to a wider audience to gain acceptance. The week commenced with a comparison of the proposed Indian dam safety guidelines with the icold guidelines (Bulletin 59, 1987).

The Indian delegates who had been to Vancouver took the lead in the two-day session where the draft guidelines were critiqued by their peers, who included senior CWC and state officials with responsibility for dam safety in India.

Two problems emerged immediately. The first was that for many not familiar with the reasoning behind the draft guidelines, they were not prescriptive enough. The second problem, related to the first, was that there were no references to Indian Standards of Good Practice (Bureau of Indian standards). The delegates in Vancouver had recognised this but, at that time, were not able to provide the BC Hydro engineers with either the references to the Indian standards or their content. In addition, the existing references in the guidelines were mostly North American and often not available in India. The guidelines were generally accepted, however, once the wider audience recognised why the guidelines were non-prescriptive, and that references could be made to Indian standards to define how the tasks outlined by the guidelines could be accomplished.

At the completion of the sessions in New Delhi, a two-day field trip was made to Mulshi dam near Pune, which is owned by the Tata Electric Company. The purpose of this visit was to apply the sections on dam safety review, the cornerstone of a dam safety programme, to a typical masonry gravity structure in India. Following the site inspection, a half-day interactive session focused on experiences, observations and lessons learned.


Following the Task 3 session in India, the guidelines were revised to align the aspects of ‘what needs to be done’ to the prescriptive ‘how to do it’ contained in the Indian standards. This was not entirely straightforward as many of the standards are based on outdated methodology and need to be revised. In addition, though the standards allow the use of more up to date methodologies, if they are available, this is rarely done. The draft Indian guidelines encourage new updated methods to be used.

In addition to references to Indian standards, a section was added to the guidelines outlining the roles of the various state and federal government agencies in the overall governance of dam safety in India.

With all these changes the final draft Indian guidelines have evolved considerably from the original CDA format and content. They are now grouped in an improved organisational structure as shown in the panel on p38.

Early on through the facilitated sessions, it was apparent that much of the resistance to implementing dam safety changes in India was driven by a lack of resources and organisational rigidity. The guidelines were designed to make practical dam safety implementation straightforward and readily implemented — a simple structure with complexity only in the detail and not the framework.

The dam safety guidelines prepared for India are the first comprehensive, inclusive document prepared for the country. It is also believed to be the first set of dam safety guidelines which include an overt coverage of risk based approaches.

The training was a balance between initial planning to meet the contract requirements within budget and being flexible enough to meet the developing needs of the delegates. The delegates were highly educated so that training was focused more on filling the gaps in their general knowledge and practical application, than taking their skills to a higher level. Together with the backup material, it was developed to encourage dissemination of information through the Indian organisations after BC Hydro had completed the project.

BC Hydro believes it has developed a training package and an approach to developing guidelines that is entirely transferable, and has achieved this at a reasonable cost.

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Project breakdown

Task 1:
A two-week workshop for 32 officers from the Central Water Commission and the US on dam safety, including a visit to a dam where safety remedial works were in progress.
Task 2:
Six weeks of intensive practical training in Canada on dam safety procedures for 14 engineers.
Task 3:
A one-week follow-up workshop on dam safety procedures.
Task 4:
Preparation/modification of dam safety guidelines for India.

Project objectives

Strengthen the awareness of the potential benefits and limitations of risk-based approaches to dam safety management at all levels.
Identify opportunities for beneficial adaptation and use of risk-based approaches to dam safety management in India.
Recommend approaches to prioritising or classifying dams for detailed safety investigation.
Sharpen the focus of Indian engineers for undertaking and formulating remedial action plans in India for the rehabilitation of dams.
Provide necessary knowledge and background for preparation of guidelines for risk analysis in dam safety.
Provide the necessary knowledge on comprehensive guidelines on dam safety aspects.

Guidelines for the management of dam safety risks

Structure of the draft Indian dam safety guidelines
Part A:
Scope governance and general principles: includes scope, definitions and general requirements augmented with a section on organisation and management.
Part B:
Classification and performance goals for dam safety evaluation: includes sections on earthquakes and floods and also classification of dams and freeboard. This section includes all the guidelines relating to loads on dams and provides the classification system which is based on the incremental consequences of a failure.
Part C:
Dam safety management: includes the sections on dam safety reviews, operation, maintenance and surveillance, emergency preparedness, discharge facilities, geotechnical considerations, concrete and masonry structures, and reservoir and the environment. This section includes all considerations related to the resistance to loads, monitoring of loads, the dam’s ability to resist loads and preparedness in the event the loads exceed the dam’s resistance.
Part D:
Risk analysis: includes sections on risk analysis and analysing the safety of dam systems. This section includes the guidelines related to risk analysis.

Further reading

1) Dam Safety Guidelines, Canadian Dam Association, January 1999
2) ICOLD Bulletin 59, Dam Safety Guidelines, 1987