As the water level at the Idukki reservoir inched towards the red alert level and the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted heavy rainfall in Kerala from Wednesday, October 20 Wednesday, authorities have opened three shutters of the Idukki dam in Cheruthoni on Tuesday. As a security measure, 222 people from 64 families who were living on the banks of Periyar river have been shifted to safe places.
After the dam was opened in 1973, this is the fourth time the shutters of the dam were opened. On Tuesday, the third shutter of the dam was opened first, and at 30 minute intervals, the fourth and second were also opened. Reportedly, as 35 centimeters of the shutters opened, 70,000 litres of water will flow out from the dam. State Electricity Minister K Krishnankutty told the media that the shutters were opened considering the security of the people, even though losses to the Kerala State Electricity Board when the water level comes down are expected to be significant.
Though there was no rain on Monday in the area, the water level at the dam kept increasing. On Monday evening, the water level reached 2,397.44 ft, while the red alert level is 2,397.86 ft. The full reserve level of the Idukki dam is 2,403 ft. The power generation had reached 13.61 mu (million units), but a high-level meeting called by Water Resources Minister Roshy Augustine, decided to open the shutters.
In 2018, the five shutters of the Idukki dam were opened after 27 years, after the water level reached red alert level. At the time, the opening had caused extensive damage in Idukki and Ernakulam district. The damages were allegedly caused because the shutters were opened without much preparation. Following this, the Central Water Commission (CWC) had fixed a new rule in shutter opening to avoid sudden opening of shutters and flow of high level of water.
This time, authorities have promised that everything was well planned and there will be no damages due to the opening of the shutters. The public has been warned not to enter the river or its streams while the shutters are open.
Apart from the Idukki dam, the sluice gates of the Idamalayar and Pampa reservoirs were also opened early on Tuesday in the wake of increase in the water level and more rains forecast in the coming days in Kerala.
The Ernakulam district administration confirmed the opening of shutters 2 and 3 of Idamalayar dam by 50 centimetres each. Likewise, the opening of shutters 3 and 4 of the Pampa dam by 45 centimetres each was confirmed by the Pathanamthitta district administration.
Even though rains subsided in several parts of Kerala on Monday, after receiving heavy downpour last week, the decision to open shutters of these dams was taken as water levels there had reached close to the danger marks and more rains were expected from Wednesday. In view of the prevailing situation and expected worsening of weather conditions, the government on Monday also cancelled pilgrimage to the Lord Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala for the Thula masam poojas.
It had also advised people living in low lying areas and close to the rivers, whose dams have been opened or scheduled to be opened, to be vigilant and move to the relief camps set up across the state in the wake of the heavy rains which has claimed 38 lives so far.
According to the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), the number of rain-related deaths in Kerala from October 12 to October 18 is 38. During the same period, at least 90 houses have been destroyed in the rains while 702 houses have been partially damaged, SDMA has said.