The Kerala Cabinet has decided to lower the water level in the Idukki reservoir as a precautionary measure in view of the precarious condition of the Mullaperiyar dam. The water level will be lowered to the extent that the waters from Mullaperiyar could be contained in the downstream Idukki reservoir in case of failure of the former.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told the media after the weekly Cabinet meeting here on Wednesday that the power generation at the Idukki project would be increased to lower the reservoir level. Release of water from the reservoir would also be done, if necessary.

The Chief Minister said that though excess generation at this time of the year could lead to power shortage during summer, the State was in no position to take risks with the lives of people living downstream of the Idukki reservoir.

Assembly session

Mr. Chandy said a decision on convening the Assembly to discuss the Mullaperiyar issue would be taken on Wednesday night after consultations with Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan. The Cabinet would meet again to recommend summoning of the Assembly to the Governor if the Opposition leader agreed to the proposal.

The State was considering the legal option of approaching the Supreme Court to get the reservoir level in Mullaperiyar lowered to 120 feet. The government, however, wanted to settle the issue amicably with Tamil Nadu without spoiling the good relations between the two neighbouring States. He would write to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to put across Kerala's concerns against the backdrop of her statement that the Mullaperiyar dam was safe. He was planning to leave for New Delhi on Thursday to discuss the issue with Union Ministers and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Mr. Chandy said Kerala had been able to convince the Central leadership of the seriousness of the situation. It wanted to build a new dam to ensure the safety of the people and had given an assurance that water would be supplied to Tamil Nadu at the current quantum. Kerala's stand had received wide acceptance and it would be able to convince courts also of its concerns.

For 120-ft level

“We are not in a position to wait since we are getting serious warnings (from experts) which ought to be heeded. The expert opinion is that the Mullaperiyar dam could fail from the impact of tremors.”

He said the current situation demanded lowering of the reservoir level of Mullaperiyar and the government was firm that it should be lowered to 120 feet from the current level of 136 feet. At the same time, Tamil Nadu should get water, and Kerala was not raising any dispute regarding the quantum of water to be given to Tamil Nadu or its use. He could see no reason why Tamil Nadu opposed Kerala's proposal for a new dam as it would continue to get water at the current level.

He pointed out that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister had been demanding abandoning of the Kudankulam nuclear plant constructed at a cost for Rs.20,000 crore citing the safety of the people of Kanyakumari and neighbouring districts. “Should not the people of Kerala too enjoy security?”

The Chief Minister said he was confident that the people agitating for the decommissioning of the 116-year-old Mullaperiyar dam would show restraint and maintain calm. None should try to spoil the friendly relations with Tamil Nadu.