Differences over technology adopted, says Public Works Department official

Kerala officials on Tuesday prevented the transporting of 200 cement bags to the Periyar dam site by the Tamil Nadu Public Works Department for closing six major holes drilled on the dam, Tamil Nadu PWD sources said.

Though the work on closing the second hole has not been affected, cement stock at the reservoir will not be adequate to close all the six holes – five on the main dam and one on the baby dam – the sources said.

“The work to fill the hole drilled on the baby dam is progressing,” a PWD official said. The PWD had estimated that it would need 2,400 bags of cement for the work. It had got permission from Kerala for transporting 1,000 bags of cement. Initially, 500 bags were sent.

“When the contractor was transporting another 200 bags, the vehicle was stopped at the Forest Department check-post at Vallakadu,” the official said.

The Tamil Nadu PWD is adopting pressure-grouting technology to close the holes using machinery, but Kerala officials want them to be filled with concrete – mix of cement and gravel, the official said.

“Their contention is that we are trying to strengthen the structure by using pressure-grouting technology, claiming that the Supreme Court has ordered status quo on the dam. They feel applying pressure will make the cement mix pass through minor gaps in the structure and fill them too. But, pressure grouting is what is adopted in all dams the world over.”

The work will have to be stopped if more cement bags are not allowed to the dam site. The issue has been taken up with higher officials in the Tamil Nadu Government, the official said.

The work, which was initially stalled, was allowed by Kerala after Chief Minister Jayalalithaa complained about the “recalcitrant attitude” of Kerala and warned that Tamil Nadu Police would be deployed at the dam site. She had stressed that it was necessary to close the holes before the onset of monsoon to protect the dam's structural stability.

The empowered committee constituted by the Supreme Court had directed the drilling of holes for carrying out tests to study the dam's structural stability.

PWD Chief Engineer (Madurai Region) M. Sampath Kumar and Superintending Engineer (Periyar Vaigai Basin Circle) S. Mohanasundaram are camping at the site.

Staff Reporter adds from Namakkal:

Work on plugging the holes was not affected on Wednesday as grouting continued and pressure filling was done using the available stock of cement,” said S. Saravanan, managing director of a Tiruchengode-based firm that has taken up the work.

He was responding to reports about Kerala officials stopping the cement truck. “It was stopped on the forest route from where it will take two to three hours to reach the dam site. It was taken back to Kumili.”