C.P. Roy former chairman of the Mullaperiyar Agitation Council which is spearheading an agitation for a new dam at Mullaperiyar, has put forth an alternative proposal for ensuring the safety of the people downstream of the dam while ensuring the same quantity or more water from the existing dam to Tamil Nadu.
He said by keeping the water level at 100 ft from the existing maximum level of 136 ft, it is possible.
In an interview with him at Kottayam on Saturday, he said that his proposal ensures enough water to the five districts in Tamil and has been accepted by the major farmers organisation representing the districts. In the proposal, he said that the minimum draw level at the dam at present is 104 ft and only above the level there is live storage. By changing the face of the tunnel which connects water from the dam to the pen stock pipes in Tamil Nadu to 50 ft high from the reservoir and the dead storage could be reduced using the dead storage water to irrigate the Tamil Nadu farms.
By changing the face of the tunnel to the nearby dam structure, the water level stored at the dam could be made to a height of 100 ft.
He said that the Tamil Nadu has built dams to storage water at a level of six tmc of water in the Old Vaigai dam, four tmc in the New Vaigai dam, two tmc each in in the Rayapetty dam and 18th Canal and one tmc each in Gudalur, Shivaganga and Ramanathapuram projects. These projects are with a view to harvest and collect maximum water for irrigation purposes, he said.
``Kerala has all the rights to ask for power generated from the additional water given to Tamil Nadu than the existing level,'' he said.
``There is no alternative for the existing dam and a second dam is inconvenient and a third dam impossible,'' he said. The new dam proposed is 192 ft high and will considerably cause damage to the eco system of the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR), he said.
While the dead storage is considerably reduced and water continuously drawn, there is no need for fear on account of a water induced tremor, he said, The new dam proposed is the seismic zone and a bigger dam will only further complicate the situation.
Even if the Supreme Court clears the proposal for a new dam, there are further hindrance in the form of a green signal from the green bench of the supreme court and environmental clearance in addition to the clearance by the Central Water Commission.
The Kabiny and Pampar projects are pending for more than a decade to get the clearance and India is a signatory to the Rio pact and the high cost and environmental damage to the internationally famous PTR should also be considered while proposing a new dam, he said.
This was a proposal put forward nearly five years back at the council meeting by him and he got support for it, he said and added that he did not understand why he had been targeted now for openly expressing his personal view. ``What needed is an immediate solution to the Mullaperiyar issue and the fear of the people on the downstream could be addressed while ensuring water to the Tamil Nadu farmers, he said.
He said that in the wake of the simmering tension across the border, the Mullaperiyar dam at the reduced water level could be made a symbol of friendship between the two States. Again by decommissioning the dam, the environmental hazard to be created by the material remains of the Mullaperiyar dam which has to be accommodated in the PTR or nearby areas is also high, he said.
Mr Roy said that only Rs 3 crore is required for changing the tunnel face near to the dam which is at present over two kilometers from the dam structure. The amount estimated for the new dam is Rs 630 crore which will be very high when the escalated final cost is estimated, he said. ``The Karappuzha project which started at an estimated cost of Rs 5 crore ended in the escalated cost of Rs 450 eating up on the State treasury, he said.
He said that Kerala has all the right to demand 140 mw electricity from Tamil Nadu form the additional water given as per this proposal and it will further benefit the power-starved State. ``These factor was not considered by the Maharaja of Travancore in the agreement when the Mullaperiyar dam was constructed and the C.Achutha Menon government when the agreement was renewed, he said.
``When the Kudankulam project in Tamil Nadu is completed it will become a power surplus state while Keral's power generation is at a concerned stage,'' he said. Tamil Nadu could be allowed the water from the existing dam as its downstream is not affected further and it is to be noted that it is the Peryar that constitutes the main tributary of the Idukki dam which produces nearly 40 to 42 percent of the total power generated in the State. ``If one feels that the dam at a100 ft height is water is also unsafe, it is possible to strengthen it using modern technology,'' he said.
Mr Roy said that as per the Rio agreement no river could be diverted totally against its natural stream because water is not only for man only but for all other living organism.
If the water level is reduced there will be a large area added to the natural forest of PTR and the criticism that it will affect boating and impact up on the economy of Thekkady does not hold water, he said. If the water level is reduced the present boat landing station is changed and it is possible to extend the present travel area to nearby dam providing further scope for tourism, Mr Roy said.
Moreover, by creating a natural path to allow visitors to Mangaladevi temple in a manner without affecting the environment, a large number of tourists including foreigners will come to Thekkady. ``Alternative tourism packages could be drawn with out damaging environment in Thekkady as it is to be noted that foreign tourists are more keen on trekking than boating as it is available in Kumarakom which is a connected tourism package to Thekkady and Munnar,'' he said and added that what is required is a will to find alternatives. The close neighbourly relationship between the people of Tamil Nadu and Kerala existed for centuries and it should not in any way disturbed for the sound prosperous economy of the two States.