Kerala's offer is not bona fide: Tamil Nadu
Kerala on Monday asserted before the Supreme Court-appointed Empowered Committee that the “construction of a new dam is the only solution to the complex Mullaperiyar dam issue” and that it would give more water to Tamil Nadu.
Appearing for Kerala, senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan and counsel Mohan Katarki said: “If the new dam is feasible and the proposal of Kerala is found… reasonable by the Empowered Committee, there is no need for addressing the issue of safety of the old dam.”
Counsel submitted that the question whether the dam was safe or not could not be decided with certainty as there was no sign or scientific method. “The ownership of the new dam would vest with Kerala as it is funding the dam entirely from its pocket. However, the operation of the reservoir shall be by a joint committee of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.”
At this juncture, the panel, headed by the former Chief Justice of India, A.S. Anand, wanted to know whether an independent committee could be constituted to manage/regulate/operate the new dam. Both counsel for Kerala and Tamil Nadu said they would get instructions and file their response.
Kerala argued that it had the right to construct a new dam, and no clearance was required from the Centre. However, for obtaining statutory clearances from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, technical clearance from the Central Water Commission would become necessary. Hence, Kerala would approach the Commission for clearance of its detailed project report.
Kerala made it clear that it was open to any suggestion from Tamil Nadu with regard to the new dam. “Kerala would dig 21 new boreholes as suggested by the Geological Survey of India, and the results… would form part of the supplementary detailed project report. The entire water generated in the catchment area up to the new dam would be available to Tamil Nadu for diversion (20.5 TMC at 75 per cent dependability), except 1.1 TMC reserved by Kerala for meeting environmental flows in the summer months, which comes to hardly 5 per cent of the total flow. “The new dam would give more water to Tamil Nadu. At present, Tamil Nadu is drawing 17.7 TMC. The new dam would provide 20.5 TMC. The proposal of Kerala is bona fide. None should be happier than Tamil Nadu if the new dam is constructed. The new dam is part of precautionary principle.”
Tamil Nadu's Additional Advocate-General Guru Krishna Kumar and counsel G. Umpathy said in their response: “Kerala's offer of [a] new dam is not bona fide, and it is an attempt to defeat the existing regime. The existing dam, after the lowering of its height to 136 feet, has fully been strengthened and is as good as a new dam with a long life. The so-called offer of new dam was only made in 2007 in the written statement filed, and the… offer has to be considered only if the Empowered Committee/the Supreme Court finds the existing dam… unsafe.”
They submitted that Mullaperiyar, being a gravity dam, would never burst in the unlikely event of a severe earthquake; it would only develop cracks. Therefore, Kerala's apprehension was misplaced.
With regard to the Empowered Committee's question about joint management of a new dam built by Kerala or other alternatives and the assurance of water to Tamil Nadu, counsel said such issues did not warrant consideration when the dam was safe. The apprehension was really about the Idukki dam component, but was being covered up through doubts raised about the Mullaperiyar dam.
Counsel said Kerala's insistence on maintaining the water level at 136 feet was only to protect the settlements/encroachments on the water spread upstream the dam, in light of evidence that new settlements and activities had developed since the water level was lowered in 1979.