A breach in the 10th shutter of the Pazhassi project reservoir at Veliyambra, near Mattannur, here on Wednesday sparked fears of flooding in the low-lying areas on either side of the catchment.

The reservoir is the main source of drinking water in the district. There are 16 radial shutters in the barrage, across the river at Veliyambra, engineers attached to the project said. The project's mechanical wing was at work to stop the leakage of water, they said.

The eighth shutter had breached last year causing floods and wastage of water.

The 10th shutter breached following high pressure as the water level had touched 24.05 metres. As the shutter was damaged earlier, an emergency shutter was arranged last month to stop leakage of water. As the leakage from the damaged radial shutter increased, the emergency shutter also failed to stop the flow, they said.

The mechanical wing wanted the water level to be brought down to fix the shutter. The civil wing had not taken a decision, sources said.

The draining of water from the reservoir would affect drinking water supply, they said adding that a final decision would be taken at a high-level meeting in the presence of the District Collector on January 20.

The project was partially commissioned by Morarji Desai, the then Prime Minister, in 1979 with the objective of irrigating 16,200 hectares of ayacut areas in the district. The barrage raises the water level in the river by about 15 metres and diverts its waters to the left bank main canal. The project envisaged a canal system of 200 km to irrigate the fields.