Kerala Minister for Water Resources P. J. Joseph said here on Wednesday that the State government viewed the condition of the Mullaperiyar dam and the recurring earthquake in Idukki district (where the dam is situated) with utmost seriousness.
Addressing a press conference after a conference of officials convened to discuss the Mullaperiyar issue, the Minister said that State government wanted the Centre to intervene. It was willing to provide all information needed by the Centre. The government was also calling for lowering of the water level in the dam in view of the threat of failure.
Mr. P. J. Joseph added that the State government was also willing for talks with Tamil Nadu to ensure the safety of the people of the State. Kerala was willing to provide the same quantity of water, as Tamil Nadu was getting now from Mullaperiyar, when new dam is constructed to replace the existing dam. The State was willing to give an undertaking before the Supreme Court or to the Central government or sign an agreement with Tamil Nadu in that regard. Hence there was no reason for Tamil Nadu to oppose the new dam.
He noted that the project report prepared by the State government provided for maintenance of the current reservoir level which would enable it to supply the same quantity of water as of now to Tamil Nadu. The term of the new agreement could be discussed in the presence of a mediator, if required, with Tamil Nadu. Current practice was not to have agreement for 999 years as in the colonial years. Instead, current practices in agreements between States could be adopted.
He urged that the national parties and media should express their opinion on the alarming situation caused by recurring tremours and poor condition of the dam. On November 18, tremours had occurred a short distance from the dam. The area had several geological faults and 20 earthquakes had occurred from July 26 this year in the area. He recalled that earthquakes of magnitude of six on the Richter scale had occurred in the State. If such a tremour occurred in the vicinity of the Mullaperiyar dam, it would wreck the dam as per the study done by Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkie. The scientists of the Centre for Earth Science here had said that even a quake of magnitude five on the scale could lead to failure of the dam.
He also recalled that the Central Water Commission had said as back as in 1979 that the dam was weak and had recommended lowering of the water level. Though certain strengthening measures had since been done, the foundation was not strengthened. Earthquakes would be affecting the foundation.
The Minister noted that the Mullaperiyar dam held 15 tmc of water. If it fails, the waters would hit the Vandiperiyar town and flow down to Upputhura and into the Idukki reservoir. The Idukki reservoir hold 70 tmc of water and the Idukki, Kulamavu and Cheruthoni dams would overflow when the water reaches the reservoir. Concrete gravity dams such as Cheruthoni would fail if water overflows. The devastation that this would cause was unimaginable, and no management measures could be thought of for such a tragedy. About 30 lakh people would be killed.