All-party meeting takes unanimous view
An all-party meeting called here on Wednesday by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to discuss the recent developments relating to the Mullaperiyar Dam in Idukki district resolved to urge the Centre to consider the issue of the more-than-a-century-old dam, “ticking like a time bomb,” as an issue confronting the country as a whole and not dilute its seriousness by terming it a dispute between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Briefing presspersons about the sentiments expressed at the meeting, Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph said there had been 20 earth tremors since July 26, this year, with their epicentres in the region surrounding the old dam that had long outlived its normal span of life. One of these tremors measured 3.4 on the Richter scale.
He said experts from the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, who were asked by the State government to study the earthquake possibilities in the dam region, had given a very strong warning about the proneness of the region for earthquakes of cataclysmic magnitudes. Their report was that there could be earthquakes measuring up to 6.5 on the Richter scale around Mullaperiyar. This could shake the very foundation of this old dam, which had already developed cracks and had started leaking. In the light of this report and in the context of several tremors in the recent months in the region, Kerala wanted the Central Empowered Committee, before which the issue was pending, to call these experts for an interview so that the committee itself would be seized of the immense seriousness of the issue, Mr. Joseph said.
Mr. Joseph said there were no two opinions at the all-party meeting. Should the old dam collapse, the life of “30 lakh Indians” would be in peril. “They are not just Keralites. They are Indians,” he said describing the dimension of the calamity if the Mullaperiyar dam were to burst and bring down 15 tmc ft of water into the Idukki reservoir a few kilometres downstream, resulting in the bursting of the dams at Painavu and Moolamattom also.
The meeting, Mr. Joseph said, resolved to urge the Union government to immediately intervene. Kerala had assured the Centre that Tamil Nadu, which depended on Mullapperiyar Dam to irrigate large tracts of agricultural land in its dry districts, would not lose even a single drop of water when another dam was built to replace the existing aged dam. “Let Tamil Nadu take the entire water,” Mr. Joseph said.
He said the meeting resolved that the State should immediately propose bringing down the water level in the Mullaperiyar reservoir to 120 feet. This would bring down the volume of water in the reservoir to 7.5 tmc ft from the present volume of 15 tmc ft. Water would flow from the reservoir to the Tamil Nadu side down to the water level of 104 feet in the reservoir. Thus, Tamil Nadu would not be adversely affected. And there could no longer be any dispute on the issue of constructing a new dam at Mullaperiyar to replace the aged one, Mr. Joseph said.
Minister-in-charge of Disaster Management Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said the State would immediately open a Hazard Vulnerability Risk Assessment cell at Mullapperiyar and also launch a programme to heighten the preparedness of the people downstream for facing a calamity.