A lush state, nevertheless, Kerala seems to be grappling with water politics. The state has cried foul as the Central Water Commission has listed Neyyar Irrigation Project as an inter-state one.
This despite Kerala repeatedly claiming the project to be intra-state. The state minister for water resources T Thomas has called the move ‘erroneous’.
Neyyar project is one of the major irrigational projects taken up by Kerala under the first five year plan. Kerala’s objection rises from the fact that if Neyyar is treated as an inter-state project, Kanyakumari (a district of Tamil Nadu) will also be entitled to the benefits from the project.
Kerala has stated that treating Neyyar Project as inter-state involving Tamil Nadu will not hold ground as Kerala hasn’t shared any expenses of Neyyar Irrigation Project with Tamil Nadu. The Neyyar dam is a lifeline for dozens of people in and around Neyyatinkara Taluk in Thiruvananthapuram district.
The story of Neyyar
Before Kerala had formed its political boundaries like we know it now, the then Travancore – Cochin government had proposed the construction of a canal to irrigate the agricultural fields in Vilavancode taluk, in Kanyakumari district.
Thus the Neyyar Irrigation project was born. The project was intended to irrigate about 9200 acres in Vilavancode taluk, raining fortune over dozens of farmers in the Kanyakumari district.
The good times were not to last long for the farmers in Vilavancode Taluk. The construction of the dam was completed in 1958, i.e. two years after the Kerala officially drew its political borders.
And after the reorganization of the states, Kanyakumari became a part of Tamil Nadu. It was decided that water in the range of 30 – 125 cusecs will be allotted to Vilavancode taluk. Kerala had also proposed in 1957 that Tamil Nadu should share the cost of the project.
In 1971, Tamil Nadu suggested the two states should share capital and maintenance of the dam, which would make Neyyar an inter-state project.
The tension between the states soared in 1999 when Kerala took a stand that Neyyar is not an inter-state project but an intra-state project.
Tamil Nadu fought back citing the long history sticking around the Neyyar project.
In 2004, the farmers of Vilavancode were in for a major disappointment as Kerala abruptly stopped water allocation to TN from Neyyar dam.
Two years later, Kerala proposed to restore water supply to TN at a cost, on which the two states locked their horns again making Neyyar project a major interstate water dispute and a legal battle.
Tamil Nadu took the water war to the Supreme Court in 2012 filing a case. The CWC came into the picture when the SC asked states to resort to help from CWC.
T Thomas writes to Nitin Gadkari
The state minister for water resources has written to Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Water Resources, asking his intervention to rectify the mistake and update the projects status to intra-state.
The central commission however seems to be standing its ground and has said that further updates will be made only after Tamil Nadu government reacts to the issue.
The state minister for water resources has expressed his concern saying “Despite our repeated requests, the Central Water Commission continues to adhere to its erroneous stand in treating NIP as an inter-state project".
CWC’s argument is that any irrigation project which includes the sharing of water and other benefits of water sharing will be treated as an inter-state project.