Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin urging him to take necessary action to gradually release water from the Mullaperiyar dam, considering that the water level is rising. The first level warning was issued by Tamil Nadu on October 23.
In his letter written on October 24, CM Pinarayi pointed out the recent floods and landslides in Kerala due to the heavy rains and asked the Tamil Nadu government to regulate the water level in the dam so that untoward incidents can be avoided as the "rains are expected to intensify in the coming days”.
Mullaperiyar dam, which is located in Kerala’s Idukki district, is managed by the Tamil Nadu government. The dam was constructed by the British in 1895 to meet the water requirements of Madurai in Tamil Nadu.
On October 23, the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam reached 136 feet and the Tamil Nadu government sent an alert and a warning was issued by the Idukki district administration to the people living downstream of the dam. As of 5 pm on Sunday, the water level had reached 136.90 feet.
CM Pinarayi in his letter said, “At present, there is a net inflow of around 2,109 cusecs accumulating in the reservoir even after the diversion from Tamil Nadu side. With the current inflow, it is feared that the reservoir level may reach 142 feet once the torrential rain intensifies. Hence, there would arise an urgent need for the gradual release of water from Mullaperiyar dam through the tunnel to Tamil Nadu." Kerala had earlier asked that the water level of the dam be maintained at 136 feet citing safety concerns. However, after a Supreme Court ruling, Tamil Nadu was allowed to maintain the maximum water level at 142 feet.
Pinarayi further asked Stalin to urgently intervene in the matter and to ensure that the maximum quantity of water is drawn from the dam through the tunnel to Vaigai dam and to gradually release the water downstream. “I also request that arrangements may be made to intimate the Government of Kerala about the opening of the shutters at least 24 hours in advance to help us to take precautionary measures for ensuring the safety of the people living downstream of the dam. I request your kind and positive response for ensuring the safety of the lives of our people,” Pinarayi added.
Pinarayi also noted in the letter, that on October 18, the Kerala government officials had informed the Tamil Nadu government officials to take steps to ensure the safety of people living downstream of the dam, after the catchment area received heavy rains.
Notably, in a recent submission made to the Supreme Court in a case related to the Mullaperiyar dam, the petitioners have cited a report by United Nations University Institute on Water, Environment and Health, which names Mullaperiyar dam and the threat it poses, reports Live Law. The report titled 'Ageing water infrastructure: An emerging global risk’, states that approximately 3.5 million people are at risk if India's Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala, built over 100 years ago, "were to fail". The dam is constructed with concrete ‘surkhi’ (a combination of limestone and burnt brick powder).
"The dam, in a seismically active area, shows significant structural flaws and its management is a contentious issue between Kerala and Tamil Nadu states," it said.