Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Tuesday inaugurated a memorial for Colonel John Pennycuick, the British engineer who built the century-old Mullaperiyar Dam apparently to solve the drought situation in the Vaigai delta region in the 19th century.
The memorial has a bronze statue of Pennycuick, and has been constructed amid the scenic Western Ghats at Lower Camp here at a cost of Rs 1.25 crore. The dam is said to have been completed in 1895.
Tamil Nadu and Kerala are locked in a bitter row over the 118-year-old dam, with the latter wanting to replace it with a new one citing safety reasons while Tamil Nadu has held that the dam is strong. A case is on before Supreme Court.
During the simmering row with Kerala over the safety of the dam last year, Ms. Jayalalithaa had announced that her government would build a memorial for John Pennycuick.
She had then said people had placed a demand for constructing a memorial for Pennycuick to show their gratitude since the dam had been functioning well.
Ms. Jayalalithaa hoped for a favourable verdict in the Supreme Court on the issue.
“In its report (the committee) has clearly said that the dam is safe and the storage level could be increased to 142 ft (from 136 ft) and then on upto 152 ft after taking up necessary works. I believe Supreme Court will rule in favour of Tamil Nadu based on this report,” she said in her address.
The Chief Minister noted that Pennycuick had sold his property back in England for completion of the project amid lot of difficulties including stoppage of funds from then British administration and natural calamities.
She also announced naming the upcoming Bus Stand at Theni after the British colonel.
Ms. Jayalalithaa refuted DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s charge that her government had not taken up maintenance of the 133 ft tall Thirvuvalluvar statue at Kanyakumari, saying chemical coating was given in 2004 and 2008.
The foundation stone for the statue of the Tamil saint-poet was laid by former Prime Minister Morarji Desai in the presence of then chief minister M G Ramachandran in 1979 and even during her rule in 1991-96 Rs 1.28 crore were released for various works connected with it. Mr. Karunanidhi cannot claim entire credit for erecting the statue, Ms. Jayalalithaa said.
She also announced constructing a memorial for legendary Tamil king Karikal Chola for building the 2000 year-old ’Kallanai’ (dam) over Kollidam river, which is still strong. She described the dam as an “engineering marvel.”