The Centre has invited Tamil Nadu and Kerala for talks on the Mullaperiyar dam issue on December 16. The date was re-set after the Tamil Nadu government sought postponement of the informal talks that were slated for Monday. This will be the first official meeting between the two sides on the issue in six years.

The Union Water Resources Ministry has sent formal invitations to both the States for official-level talks with Water Resources Secretary D.V. Singh.

The Centre's decision came on a day when the Supreme Court-appointed empowered panel, headed by former Chief Justice of India A. S. Anand, decided to send a two-member technical team to the site of the dam in Idukki district in Kerala to carry out an on-the-spot assessment of the claims made by both the States.

The talks have been scheduled on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's directions after the Chief Minister of both the States sought Central intervention.

The new date has been conveyed to the Prime Minister's Office. A team of Kerala water resources officials, however, met Mr. Singh here on Monday as per schedule to discuss the outstanding water issues, including the Mullaperiyar dam row.

Details of the talks were not officially available but it is understood that the Centre sees itself in the role of a facilitator to bring both the States to the discussion table, especially since the issues on merit are already before the Supreme Court. The Centre's efforts are to see if the States can come to a solution and to allay genuine concerns, sources said.

On December 1, Dr. Singh wrote to Ms. Jayalalithaa, in response to her letters to him, that he had advised the Water Resources Ministry to arrange an early meeting of officials from both the States. Kerala wants the 116-year-old dam to be decommissioned on the grounds of it being unsafe, while Tamil Nadu is opposing it on the apprehension that it will stand to lose its water rights if a new dam is constructed.