The Kerala government on Sunday, November 7, said it was not informed by Kerala Forest Department officials that permission was being granted for felling 15 trees downstream of the Baby Dam at Mullaperiyar reservoir. This comes a day after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin thanked his counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan for the decision. Stalin had on Saturday thanked Pinarayi for "granting permission" for felling 15 trees downstream of the Baby Dam at Mullaperiyar reservoir and said he was informed by his officers of the Water Resources Department, that the permission for felling the 15 trees downstream of the Baby Dam at Mullaperiyar Dam has been granted by the Forest Department of Kerala.
"As far as I understand, the Chief Minister's office, Irrigation Minister's office and my office were not made aware of such a decision. There is a lapse. From the news reports, I understand that permission was granted by the Forest department and they (Tamil Nadu) have started felling trees. We have sought a report from officials concerned," Kerala Forest Minister AK Saseendran told the media here. Saseendran added that in normal cases, the Forest Department has the powers to accord such permission, however since Mullarpiyar is an important issue, such a decision should not have been taken without consulting the ministries including the Chief Minister's office.
In his message expressing gratitude, Stalin had reiterated Tamil Nadu's commitment to "undertake all steps needed to further strengthen the Mullaperiyar Dam" and ensure the safety of the people living downstream in Kerala.
However, this became a controversy in Kerala as the state's demand was for a new dam at Mullaperiyar and not strengthening the Baby Dam.
Peerumedu MLA Vazhoor Soman told the media that the permission was given by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden. "The government was not aware of this. The state government's stand is a new dam for Kerala and water for Tamil Nadu. Strengthening of the Baby Dam was against the state government policy and such a decision to fell the trees should have been informed to the state government. This was not a decision which could have been taken by the bureaucracy," Soman told the media.
Meanwhile, former minister and UDF MLA PJ Joseph said it was unbelievable that a bureaucrat has issued such an order. "Then the minister has no right to remain in that post. The said order should be withdrawn."
BJP state chief K Surendran also came out against the order and said the state government plans to make the officials a scapegoat in the issue.
"The CM and Saseendran are fooling the people of the state. They knew about the order," Surendran alleged.
Amid the on-going standoff with Kerala over the Mullaperiyar dam issue, Tamil Nadu Water Resources Department Minister Duraimurugan had on Friday said the water level in the reservoir would be raised to 152 feet after strengthening the Baby dam.
Both states are at loggerheads over the stability of the century-old structure, with Kerala insisting that it was not strong while Tamil Nadu saying it was not the case.