Petitioners want National Disaster Management Authority put in place

Apprehending danger to the Mullaperiyar dam if the present water level of 136 ft. was maintained, a public interest litigation petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday for a direction to the Tamil Nadu government to drain water completely to the extent possible and decommission the dam to protect the right to life of 5 million people guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The petitioners, All-Kerala Anti-Corruption and Human Rights Protection Council, represented by its State president Issac Varghese and other villagers from that area, while squarely blaming the Centre for not taking any steps to address the issue so far, wanted a direction to the authorities concerned to put in place the National Disaster Management Authority on an urgent basis, a mechanism for relief and rehabilitation of the people living downstream of the Mullaperiyar dam in the eventuality of the failure of the dam.

Expressing concern over the 25 earthquakes reported in the area, the petition, filed through advocate P.V. Dinesh, said the lives and properties of 5 million people residing downstream of the fragile Mullaperiyar dam was at stake and could be protected only by the intervention of this court by issuing appropriate directions to the Union of India and the States of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

In view of the prevailing extraordinary circumstance, it was not necessary to prove beyond a reasonable doubt whether the dam would withstand an earthquake of a larger magnitude or not, they said. School-going children spent sleepless nights and a fear psychosis had gripped the local people of that locality.

“The Central government is treating the issue as if it is an issue between the State of Tamil Nadu and the State of Kerala. This indifference and ‘dangerous neutrality' is a sheer abdication of constitutional responsibility.” The Central government or State governments had not conducted any serious study or taken measures to meet the possible fallout of the failure of the dam so far. “In the given situation of constant quakes, a reduction in water level has also lost its relevance and the dam should be decommissioned.”

They said “the process of testing the legality and constitutionality of the law passed by Kerala is a time-consuming process, and in the interregnum, the people of the area are seeking indulgence of this court for an immediate intervention. The present uncertainty, dilapidated condition of the dam, regular earthquakes and media reports on safety of dam have psychologically affected the people living in the vicinity of the dam. It makes people run out of their homes in the middle of night and schools and colleges declare holidays during heavy rains fearing that the dam would fail any moment.” Hence the present petition.

More In: National | News