Voicing Kerala’s readiness to walk the extra mile to resolve the Mullaperiyar Dam row, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said he was even willing to enter into a tripartite agreement and enact a law assuring Tamil Nadu that it will get “same quantity” of water from the new dam.
However, he made it clear that the state cannot wait “too long”.
“We are ready to give any type of assurance that we will give the same quantity of water. We have offered mutual agreement. If they want we are ready to give a tripartite agreement in the presence of the Government of India. We are ready to give the assurance in Supreme Court,” he said.
The Kerala government was even prepared to have an “enactment” in the Assembly assuring “full quantity” of water to Tamil Nadu, Mr. Chandy told PTI.
The Kerala Chief Minister, who led an all-party delegation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue, said: “We are not in a position to wait for a long time. Lakhs and lakhs of people are spending sleepless nights. Children are not going to schools. Some are even planning to shift from the area.”
“Every second is important for us. Lives of lakhs of people are involved. For Tamil Nadu, every day is important that they need the water for daily needs. We know the importance of Tamil Nadu’s need for water,” he said.
Asked why Tamil Nadu takes such a stand when Kerala appears to be offering same quantity of water, he said, “There may be some internal political compulsions, especially in the Opposition.”
When pointed out that DMK is the opposition party he was referring to, Mr. Chandy did not offer a direct answer saying opposition DMK, ruling AIADMK and others were on the same page on the issue.
Mr. Chandy also rued Tamil Nadu boycotting meetings convened by the Centre at the official-level, saying unless they come to the negotiating table “we cannot discuss anything.”
Tamil Nadu had refused to send its representatives to meetings convened by the Centre to resolve the Mullaperiyar Dam issue.
“If they are ready for discussions then we can talk. It is full of cards. They can take cards to them. They have to decide,” Mr. Chandy said.
The Chief Minister said though Mullaperiyar was not an “inter-state” river, Kerala is ready to give water to Tamil Nadu because it wants good relations with the neighbouring states.
“We want to maintain cordial relationship. If we give water to Tamil Nadu, we are the beneficiaries of it. Because the five district which are dependent on the water are important to us. We get vegetables and fruits from there only,” he said.
The Chief Minister also sought to punch holes in Tamil Nadu’s contention that the 116-year-old dam was “as safe as a new dam”.
“If the dam is new, then why there is so heavy maintenance all the time. There is a lot of maintenance activities happening regularly. The dam is 116-year-old and already a good portion of lime has washed away. No one can give an assurance that the dam will be safe for 999 years,” he said.
“The issue is whether a new dam should be built today or tomorrow. But a dam has to be built,” he said.
Asked whether Kerala would give up its demand for a new dam if the water level of the existing structure is reduced to 120 feet, he said: “That is not the permanent solution. That is an interim solution suggested by us till a new dam is built. The permanent solution is building of a new dam.”
Mr. Chandy also dismissed suggestions that Union Ministers from Kerala are not doing their bit in the issue, saying “everyone has limitations and all cannot behave like a party cadre.”