CMs Pinarayi, Stalin to hold meeting to resolve Mullaperiyar dam issue

The more than a century old dam has been a longstanding issue for the two states, with one feeling the risk of it and the other depending on it for water needs.
MK Stalin and Pinarayi Vijayan
MK Stalin and Pinarayi Vijayan
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Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin will meet his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan in Chennai in December to resolve the decades' long Mullaperiyar dam issue. Sources in the Tamil Nadu Water Resources Department told IANS that the leaders will discuss the strength of the dam and the pitfalls. Kerala Minister for Water Resources Roshy Augustine and his Tamil Nadu counterpart and senior DMK leader S Duraimurugan will also be part of the meeting, sources said.

Kerala has been arguing that the Mullaperiyar dam be dismantled and a new dam constructed, but Tamil Nadu is opposed to this as the water from the dam is a lifeline for farmers in several parts of Tamil Nadu. It is to be noted that Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, while speaking to media persons in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, said that the Mullaperiyar dam is old and several people living in the area have expressed their anxiety to him and that a new dam was the need of the hour. He said that he had communicated the anxiety of the people to the Kerala government and that steps should be taken to resolve the issue amicably.

Mullaperiyar is a masonry gravity dam across the Periyar River constructed between 1887 and 1895 by John Pennycuick, a British Engineer. There was an agreement that the water will be shared with Tamil Nadu. Even though the dam is geographically located in Kerala, it is maintained and managed by Tamil Nadu.

A report by the United Nations University, the academic and research arm of the United Nations, has said that the Mullaperiyar dam, which is situated in a seismically active area, faces the risk of failure.

The report, titled "Ageing water storage infrastructure: An emerging global risk", released by the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment, and Health, has said that the ageing of dams is a threat to human safety and environment. It specifically mentioned and stated that the Mullaperiyar dam constructed in 1895 is situated in a landslide-prone area and that if there is dam failure, the lives of 3.5 million people would be affected.

The report also said that in 2011, Idukki district, where the Mullaperiyar dam is situated, experienced a series of tremors, and after the earthquake measured 3.5 on the Ritcher scale, the water level in the dam rose more than usual.

Several celebrities from Kerala, including film actors Prithviraj and Unnimukundan, have supported the construction of a new dam at Mullaperiyar.

The upcoming meeting between the Chief Ministers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu is expected to resolve the issue.

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