The Kerala government on Monday told the Empowered Committee, headed by former Chief Justice of India A.S. Anand, that it would take four years to complete the new Mullaperiyar dam and that it would manage the dam after construction.

In its affidavit Kerala stated: “Ownership, operation and maintenance of a new dam should vest absolutely in the State of Kerala. But, the regulation of waters from a new dam will be handled by a Joint Committee of Engineers of both the States of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, as is being done in the case of Parambikulam Aliyar Project and Siruvani Projects by both States.”

The committee is to undertake an inspection of the dam from December 17. The State said the new dam proposed was in the downstream, about 1,300 ft away from the existing dam. Hence, the present supply of water to Tamil Nadu from the existing Mullaperiyar dam at 136 ft would continue unimpeded during the construction of the new dam.

Kerala pointed out that during the pre-1979 period, Tamil Nadu had drawn 17 tmcft of water at 75 per cent dependability, but in the post-1979 period, when storage was reduced to 136 ft, Tamil Nadu had drawn 19.5 tmcft. Consequently, the extent of irrigation in Tamil Nadu from the Mullaperiyar dam increased from 1,71,307 acres before 1979 to 2,31,412 acres in 1992-93.

The new dam to be constructed would fully protect and guarantee the equitable interests of Tamil Nadu for agriculture purposes. The benefits from the new dam would be shared between Kerala and Tamil Nadu as had been mutually agreed upon. The State made it clear that none of the measures recommended or suggested by the CWC would make the unsafe Mullaperiyar dam safe for any storage above 136 ft. It has been the consistent stand that the water level should not be raised beyond 136 ft.

Kerala raised additional issues before the committee, viz. whether increase of storage beyond 136 ft would prejudicially affect the environment, ecology and biodiversity; whether the downstream Idukki dams would collapse if the Mullaperiyar dam breaks; what would be the consequent loss of lives and properties due to the collapse of the dam to both the States?

If the dam breaks, the resulting flood will rush through the river course exclusively in the Kerala territory and result in unimaginable loss of lives and properties, but it will have no impact on the lives and properties in Tamil Nadu. Another issue to be considered is what benefits would accrue to both the States from diversion of the Periyar waters under the alleged lease deed of 1886 and supplemental agreements of 1970 and whether the Periyar is an inter-State river.