Protests are mounting in Kerala over the Mullaperiyar issue. Hundreds of people living downstream of Mullaperiyar dam took to the streets and blocked the Kottayam-Kattappana road at Karinkulam Chappathu on Sunday.
Spontaneous protests were mounted in many parts of Idukki district including Kumili as the water level in Mullaperiyar touched the spillway level (136 feet). Panic has gripped people living downstream of the dam, especially the Vallakkadavu and Vandiperiyar areas.
At Vandiperiyar town, which will be in the path of calamitous flow of water if Mullaperiyar dam fails, women took out a silent march through the town. Protesters burned Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha in effigy.
The agitators were led by the Mullaperiyar Agitation Council which had been demanding decommissioning of the dam. The Council has now hardened its stand and is demanding that no new dam should be built on Mullaperiyar after decommissioning of the existing dam in view of the recurring tremours in the region.
Many people downstream of the dam are planning to shift. Reports said that many were calling their relatives in neighbouring districts for accommodation. As water began flowing over the spillways, the district collector has issued an alert and is taking steps to evacuate people if necessary. Control rooms have been opened at the district and Peerumedu taluk headquarters and other centres.
The water getting released through the spillways flows into the Idukki reservoir downstream. About one lakh people are estimated to be living between Mullaperiyar and Idukki though a correct estimate of area that would be submerged in case of failure of the Mullaperiyar dam is yet to be made. Many people fear that the Idukki, Cheruthoni, Kulamavu and Lower Periyar dams would also be in peril if the Mullaperiyar dam fails. About 30 lakh people live downstream of Idukki reservoir.
Politicians join protest:
Faced with increasing levels of popular protests, the politicians are also joining the agitation. The LDF as well as UDF has called for a dawn to dusk hartal in Idukki district on Monday. The CPI member of the Assembly from Perrumedu E. S. Bijimol announced an indefinite hunger strike at Chappathu from this evening.
Member of Assembly from Idukki Roshy Augustine will stage a dharna here on Monday while his party colleagues will lead protests in five districts including Idukki. Members of Parliament P. T. Thomas and Jose K. Mani will stage dharnas in Delhi. The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha will take out a march to Union Defence Minister A. K. Antony’s home here on Monday in protest over his inaction in the Mullaperiyar issue.
Meanwhile, Revenue Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan and Water Resources Minister P. J. Joseph are to leave for Delhi on Monday to take up the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister A. K. Antony, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Union Minister for Water Resources Pawan Kumar Bansal and demand their intervention.