In a move that will irk neighboring state Kerala, Tamil Nadu released water from theMullaperiyar dam for irrigation and drinking water requirements of Theni and Madurai districts.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa ordered the release of water for 120 days from July 14. This was after a delay of nearly one-and-a-half months.
After pleas from the farming community of Cumbum valley in Theni district, the Chief Minister was quick to consider the need for drinking water in Theni and Madurai districts.
The move, Tamil Nadu says, would benefit 14,707 acres of agricultural lands in Theni, Uthampalayam and Bodinayakkanur blocks in Theni district.
Farmers in the valley had grown anxious as water release was delayed due to lack of rainfall. According to district agricultural officials, the farmers had raised nurseries and kept their tools ready to commence cultivation in the monsoon months.
Though South West monsoon hit the Western Ghats on June 1, rainfall in catchment areas of Mullaperiyar was not adequate and water level did not go up for nearly a month. Only on the first week of July did water level begin crossing the 112 feet mark, courtesy the monsoon rains that followed.
On Thursday, Pinarayi Vijayan said his government favoured construction of a new dam in place of the existing Mullaperiyar reservoir.
In reply to an unstarred question in the assembly, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the new government's policy was also for construction of new dam by examining the legal and technical feasibility.
The government would protect the interest of the state completely and ensure the safety of the life and assests of its people, he said.
Previously Jayalalithaa had met Prime Minister Modi to request rise of the permissible limit of water to 152 meters. She claimed that the dam was strengthened by her state and sought permission for felling 23 trees to make way for a smaller dam near the Mullaiperiyar dam.
The dam is no stranger to controversy. The two states have for long been at loggerheads over the Mullaperiyar dam, located in Idduki district of Kerala, but is under the administrative control of Tamil Nadu as per a 999-year lease agreement and caters to irrigation requirements in southern districts of Tamil Nadu.
While Kerala had been pressing for a new reservoir on the ground that the existing dam was in a dilapidated state and weak, Tamil Nadu is opposing it saying the structure was safe.
The state has always objected to the proposal to link rivers in the fear that the backwaters would dry up and the Kuttanadu and Upper Kuttanadu will be adversely affected.
Based on the report by the Empowered Committee, the Supreme Court had allowed Tamil Nadu to raise the water level to 142 feet in 2014.