Mullaiperiyar dispute erupts again

Chennai: The decades old inter-State dispute over the 128-year-old Mullaiperiyar Dam that belongs to Tamil Nadu but is located in Kerala territory has erupted once again with Chief Minister M K Stalin strongly objecting to the Union Government considering a proposal to take up a study for constructing a new dam to replace the existing one, built across River Periyar in Idukki district.

Kerala’s proposal to take up a study for constructing the new dam at Mullaiperiyar was in violation of the orders of the Supreme Court, Stalin said in his letter to the Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav, on Friday.

Earlier, after news of Kerala's plans came out, leader of the opposition in the State Assembly, Edappadi K Palaniswami, urged the DMK government to wake up from its slumber and act according to the Supreme Court ruling.

He said in the statement that the government apathy on ensuring the State’s rights on the Mullaiperiyar dam had led to suffering among the people in the districts of Madurai, Theni, Dindigul, Sivagangai and Ramanathapuram, the region that receives water from the dam.

Stalin, urging the Union Minister to instruct the officers concerned at the Union Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change (MoEF), and the Member Secretary of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to drop the item from the agenda for the EAC meeting on May 28 and also not to take up any such proposal from Kerala in future, said: ‘Considering the sensitivity of the situation, I solicit your immediate personal intervention in this regard.’

‘We are informed that the Expert Appraisal Committee(EAC), under the aegis of the Union Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change (MoEF), has included the above proposal by M/s.Irrigation Design & Research Board (IDRB), Government of Kerala in the agenda of its upcoming meeting,’ he said.

The proposal for constructing a new dam was against the directions of the Supreme Court since the existing dam had been repeatedly found to be safe in all aspects by various Expert Committees and had been ruled so by the Supreme Court in its judgments dated February 27, 2006 and May 7, 2014, he said

In 2018, when Kerala made an attempt to get approval for the ToR for EIA study for the new dam, Tamil Nadu took up the issue with the Supreme Court and it was clearly ruled that any such step would require the Court’s permission, he said.

So Kerala’s IDRB taking up EIA study for a new dam as well EAC considering the request would definitely amount to contempt of Supreme Court orders, he said, adding, ‘Our objections on this issue have already been communicated in detail by the Additional Chief Secretary, Water Resources department to the Secretary, MoEF and all the members of EAC.’

‘We intend to take strong legal action, including contempt petitions, if the earlier orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court are not adhered to by the various stakeholders in this issue,’ the Chief Minister said.

Palaniswami recalled the legal battles waged by the AIADMK government under J Jayalalithaa starting with the demand for raising the storage level to 142 feet and told the DMK government to make efforts to increase it to 152 feet, which was the level before the dispute broke out in the early 1980s.

Other political parties like the Congress and the PMK had already objected to the Union Government considering Kerala’s proposal and urged the State government not to allow the construction of a new dam and demolish the existing one.

Right from the beginning when the dispute erupted, Kerala has been saying that the dam was old and might give way any time, while Tamil Nadu had been maintaining that the masonry gravity dam was strong enough to stand the pressure exerted by the water stored to the full capacity.

The dam was built in 1895 by British engineer John Pennycuick across the west flowing Periyar river, preventing the water from going to waste in the Arabian Sea, and turning it eastward and bringing the water to Tamil Nadu through a tunnel carved in the hills to take the water to the otherwise parched districts in the State.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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