With Mullaperiyar dam’s shutters being raised, life on the banks disrupted again

Six relief camps have been opened at Manjumala, Elappara, Periyar, Upputhara, and Anavilasam, where 288 people from 98 families are staying.
Relief camp
Relief camp
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Every time the spillway shutters of the Mullaperiyar dam are opened, 47-year-old Shivan PM is moved to a relief camp. A resident of the Attoram in Manjumala near Vandiperiyar in Idukki, Shivan’s house is close to the Periyar river, and is submerged when the shutters are opened. When the state reeled under floods in 2018 and the spillway shutters of the Mullaperiyar dam were opened, Shivan says his house was submerged. 

With the spillway shutters of the dam opened on Friday, October 29 and further on Saturday, October 30, Shivan and his family have once again found themselves in a relief camp at St. Joseph School in Vandiperiyar. “The officials have asked me and my family to stay here for the next two days. I am a daily wage worker. There is no other land or money to move to a safe area. We live under the shadow of fear every rainy season. We don't know what to do,” he told TNM. 

The water released through the spillway shutters first reaches the residential area of Vallakadavu through the Periyar within 20 minutes. It then moves through Manjumala, Vandiperiar, Mlamala, Santhipalam, Chappathu, Alady and Upputhara to join the Idukki reservoir water at Ayyappan Kovil, which is 35 km away from Idukki arch dam and Cheruthoni dam.

Another resident who lives in the downstream region of the dam, PN Sebastian of Vallakkadavu said they did not ask to be shifted to a relief camp when the shutters of the dam were raised. 

“My home is near the Periyar river. After the shutters were opened, the water level did not increase much in the river this time. During the 2018 floods, the water level in the Periyar river had risen a lot as all 13 spillway shutters of the Mullaperiyar dam were opened. This caused the area to be submerged. In 2018, my home was submerged and the things in my house were destroyed.”

In 2018, all 13 shutters were opened to one feet, and 4,490 cusecs of water was released. Later, due to increased inflow, 26,835 cusecs of water were released. 

Sebastian maintains there is no need to panic this time as the water level is significantly lower than it was in 2018. “Every time the water level rises in Mullaperiyar dam, politicians and officials conduct flood tourism at Mullaperiyar and forget the issue within days,” he alleges.

Families have already begun returning to their homes from relief camps, according to ward member and standing committee chairman of Vandiperiyar grama panchayat Ajith Kumar. According to him, most people thought that a lot of water would be released from the dam, but that was not the case, and the water level in the river did not rise significantly.

“Most people at the relief camps are daily wage workers, and cannot stay for any more time,” he added.

During the 2018 floods, there were landslides in the area and the water level rose. With all shutters of the dam being opened, it caused severe damage, Ajith Kumar added. 

Six relief camps have been opened at Manjumala, Elappara, Periyar, Upputhara, and Anavilasam, where 288 people from 98 families — 118 men, 114 women and 56 kids in the relief camps — are staying. 

Revenue minister K Rajan and Water Resource Minister Roshy Augustine visited the relief camps and interacted with the people on Friday. “There is no need to panic and the government has completed all arrangements,” Roshy Augustine said. 

A revenue department official said that those who have shifted to temporary camps will be given protection and medical facilities, with each official being given charge of one camp.

It should be noted that these are important precautionary measures. According to a government release earlier this week, the water level in the 24 kilometre stretch from Mullaperiyar to Idukki is expected to rise by about 60 centimetre, and a maximum of 859 families comprising 3,320 members may have to be moved as they could be affected by the two-foot-high flood.

Departments like Revenue, Health, Fire Force, Forest and Police also formed special teams and completed the security arrangements.

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