Water level rising; the public and officials put on alert

All power generators below the penstock tunnels leading from Kerala’s largest hydel reservoir in Idukki are working round the clock in what appears to be a losing battle to prevent the opening of the dam shutters.

“The water level is inching towards the full reservoir mark,” K.K. Karuppankutty, Chief Engineer, Dam Safety, Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), told The Hindu here on Thursday.

“The water level has now reached 2,400.23 ft and it is going up by 0.02 ft every hour. The full reservoir level is 2,403 ft, but we will start opening the shutters when the water level goes above 2,402.5 ft. If the inflow into the reservoir continues at the present rate, in about 113 hours from now, we may have to open the shutters,” Mr. Karuppankutty said around 4 p.m.

The catchments of the reservoir have been receiving good rain since September 12, and the meteorological indications on Thursday were in favour of continued rain in the High Ranges of the State for at least three more days, which will mean heavy inflow into the reservoir for at least five or six days.

Meeting held

Electricity Minister Aryadan Mohammed called a meeting of top officials on Thursday to organise preparations for opening the dam shutters.

The meeting assessed that even if the storage of water was utilised at the maximum possible level by operating all the turbines generating power, the shutters of the dam might have to be opened anytime between September 22 and 24.

Top officials would proceed to the dam site from the KSEB headquarters on Saturday to monitor and oversee the preparations.

If the shutters were to be opened, it will be the first time during the southwest monsoon since the construction of the dam in 1973.

Twice in the past, the shutters had to be opened, but during the northeast monsoon (October to December) on both occasions.

The first time was in 1981 (when the shutters were repeatedly opened and shut between October 29 and November 13) and the second time was in 1992 (when they were kept open for 12 days from October 12 to 23). On both occasions, the water level in the dam touched the brim only when the storage built up during the southwest monsoon (June to September) was augmented by the inflow received immediately afterwards following heavy downpour early in the northeast monsoon.

Thus, the difference now is that the Idukki reservoir is reaching its full level with inflow received only during the southwest monsoon. As on Thursday, the State has received 31 per cent excess rainfall during the season.

Numerical weather predication models of the Chennai regional meteorological centre on Thursday favoured the possibility of widespread and heavy rain in Kerala during the next three days. An offshore trough was in position at mean sea level from the Karnataka coast to the Kerala coast and the southwest monsoon flow had quickened over the State, drawn by a low-pressure system over northwest Bay of Bengal.

Warning issued

Kattappana Correspondent adds:

The Idukki district administration has issued a warning that the dam will be opened on Saturday or Sunday.

District Collector Ajit Patil said the tahsildars and the village officers had been instructed to shift people living in the downstream areas in case of an emergency.

He said a public warning would be issued prior to the opening of the dam shutters and separate 24-hour control rooms had been opened at the taluk and the village levels. Mr. Patil said all precautionary measures had been taken, and the KSEB control room (ph: 9496 011974) was alerting various departments to the water level every hour.

An official of the control room said that though the rain had decreased slightly on Thursday, inflow was at a high level.

The phone numbers of various control rooms are: (04868) 275 293 (Thankamany); (04862) 230 888 (Upputhodu); (04868) 262 902 (Konnathady); (04868) 237 865 (Udumbanchola taluk); (04868) 260 302 (Vathikudy); (04862) 232 393 (Idukki); (04862) 239 582 (Kanjikuzhy); (04864) 276 201 (Vellathooval); (04864) 222002 (Mannakandam); and (04862) 222 098 (Thodupuzha taluk).

More In: Kerala | National