In yet another development in the Mullaperiyar dam issue, the Kerala government has submitted before the Supreme Court that the dam must be decommissioned, and a new dam be built. The government submitted that the dam, located in the Idukki hill range district of Kerala, is extremely vulnerable due to its age, a large catchment area and limited storage capacity and therefore must be decommissioned for a new dam to be built. The dam that currently exists in Kerala is managed by Tamil Nadu. The water from the dam stored at the Vaigai dam is used to irrigate almost five districts in Tamil Nadu and is a major source of drinking water.
According to LiveLaw in a note submitted to the SC the state government said that the dam is a 126-year-old composite gravity dam and that seismic forces were not given consideration while building the dam. The Kerala governmentâs note further said that "The consequences of any failure of this dam could be extremely catastrophic and beyond human imagination. The apprehensions of the government of Kerala regarding the life and safety of more than 30 lakh people of 5 districts residing downstream of the dam has to be given due importance and considerationâ, according to the LiveLaw report.
The Kerala governmentâs submission at the apex court came even as the Tamil Nadu government has informed that it will open the dam on October 29, Friday. The current water level in the dam is 137.75 feet. Kerala government is being prepared for dealing with the opening of the dam and that necessary arrangements have been made, minister for Water Resources Roshy Augustine has said.
Kerala recently had asked Tamil Nadu to maintain the water level in the dam at 137 feet. Tamil Nadu, however, was on the view that water should be retained in the dam till it reached 142 feet. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin on October 27 wrote to CM Pinarayi assuring him that TN government will ensure that interests of both states and our people are well safeguarded.
The Mullaperiyar dam issue is a perennial issue between Kerala and the neighbouring southern state Tamil Nadu. As heavy rains have become frequent in Kerala, with the catchment area of the dam also receiving high rainfall, the safety of the dam is once again being questioned. Later, rumours were spread on social media that the dam was in danger prompting Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to warn of strict action against those who created panic among the people.
Tamil Nadu in 1998 wanted to raise the height of the water level which Kerala opposed. The Supreme Court in 2006 allowed Tamil Nadu to raise the water level from 136 to 142 feet. A three-member supervisory committee was appointed by the Union government and Supreme Court for periodic inspection of the dam and overseeing of requisite repair works, if any. Kerala, in response to this, had constituted a Dam Safety Authority to prevent the same.
In 2010, AS Anand Committee was set up by the SC to look into the issue, based on Tamil Naduâs suit questioning the controversial Kerala law. The SC in 2011 rejected Keralaâs plea to bring âon recordâ new dataâ (obtained through its own committee of experts from IIT Delhi and IIT Roorkee) to counter expert committees report citing the dam structure as safe. The SC in 2014 quashed Kerala law and allowed water level to be raised to 142 feet with a provision upto 152 feet after requisite strengthening measures. Water level touched 142 feet for the first time in 35 years in November 2014.