Amid the simmering dispute between Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the Mullaperiyar Dam, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Sunday announced that her government would build a memorial to John Pennycuick, the British engineer who constructed the dam to overcome the drought in the Vaigai delta region in the 19th century.
The 2500 square feet ‘manimandapam' with a statue of Pennycuick would come up on the premises of the TANGEDCO office at the Lower Camp, Ms Jayalalithaa said in a statement.
The cost of the project would be Rs 1 crore. Pennycuick's grandson would be invited for its inauguration, she said.
Ms Jayalalithaa said her government had decided to create a Manimandapam following requests from the people in the southern districts including Theni.
“They want to express their gratitude to Pennycuick, who constructed the dam, which is still in good condition and will survive many hundred years to come,” she added.
The Chief Minister said Colonel Pennycuick, who came to India as an Army Engineer, decided to divert the west-flowing river's culmination in the Bay of Bengal towards the East so that it could irrigate lakhs of acres of dry land depending only on Vaigai river.
Though Pennycuick and other British Engineers went ahead with the construction, braving the nature's fury and the dangers of poisonous insects and wild animals, the construction works were disrupted by relentless rain. Since he could not get adequate funds from the British government, Pennycuick went to England and sold his family property to mobilise money to fund the project, which was completed in 1895.
Ms Jayalalithaa said the dam was inaugurated by Lord Wenlock, the then Governor of the Chennai Presidency.
It resulted in irrigation of 2.23 lakh acres in Theni, Dindigul, Madurai, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts.
The Chief Minister said Pennycuick used lime and surki paste for construction, taking into consideration the gravitational force. “That is why it is able to withstand tremors and remain strong,” she said.