Tamil Nadu on Friday told the Supreme Court-appointed Empowered Committee that the Mullaperiyar dam had been strengthened and was being well maintained. Being a retrofitted dam, it was safe in terms of hydrological as well as structural safety parameters, and there was no need for a new reservoir.

In its response filed to the question on construction of a new dam and its regulation, Tamil Nadu said: “… ownership, control and regulation of the new dam are issues which would not arise for consideration. Indeed, given the past events, inter alia, the enactment of a law [by Kerala in 2006] to nullify the earlier decision of the Supreme Court, that too barely just a few days after the judgment, Tamil Nadu has genuine apprehensions about a scenario of ownership/control of the proposed new dam with the State of Kerala.”

Wholly unsustainable

Tamil Nadu pointed out that the issue (of a new dam) framed by the Committee was only as an alternative. This would arise “only if the Empowered Committee comes to a conclusion that the existing dam is scientifically unsafe and the new dam is the only solution. The strengthened dam is fully safe, which has been reiterated by the report of the Expert Committee, and the strengthened dam is as good as a new dam. Kerala's submission that if the proposal of the new dam is found to be feasible, then there would be no need for addressing the issue of safety of the existing dam is wholly unsustainable.”

‘Incorrect hypothesis'

Opposing the proposal for a new dam, Tamil Nadu said: “It seeks to take away the existing rights and introduces a new concept of sharing of waters. Tamil Nadu, under the existing agreement, is entitled to all the waters below the contour line of +155 feet. The case of Kerala for a new dam is premised on the assumption that the existing dam would burst in the unlikely event of [an] earthquake of high magnitude when the entire water from the Mullaperiyar reservoir would reach the Idukki reservoir at one instance. Such a hypothesis is incorrect. Indeed, such an eventuality may occur only if the Idukki dam complex breaks down on account of [an] alleged earthquake.”

‘Untenable, irrelevant'

Tamil Nadu said: “Indeed, the various apprehensions expressed by Kerala are apparently an alibi to protect the encroachments which have taken place in the upstream water spread area since water has not been stored above +136 feet since 1980. The submission of Kerala that the safety of the dam cannot be decided with scientific certainty is wholly misconceived. The further submission of Kerala that it is open to any suggestion with regard to any further study in regard to the new dam is wholly untenable and indeed irrelevant. The submission that Kerala would conduct further tests as advised by the Geological Survey of India is beside the point.

Sectoral demands

“After the lowering of the storage level … to +136 feet in 1979, Tamil Nadu was managing its affairs by proper regulation and management of the scarce water resources. Tamil Nadu, by adopting modern techniques, has improved its irrigation efficiency with World Bank aid, and has been able to increase the area under irrigation as envisaged in the project. However, the population in the five districts depending upon Periyar water has considerably increased. Therefore, Tamil Nadu has an additional requirement for not only meeting drinking water needs but also the other sectoral demands in the five districts. It is evident that Kerala's attempt is to somehow proceed to construct a new dam even in the absence of any scientific evidence and is only an attempt to take control of the dam. The submission of Kerala to resort to the precautionary principle even if the dam is found to be safe is wholly untenable. The said principle is wholly inapplicable to the facts of the case. The mere apprehension and fear psychosis created by Kerala cannot be a justification for invoking the precautionary principle and proceed with the construction of new dam. The entire claim of Kerala for the need of the new dam is hypothetical and unscientific and has to be rejected by the Empowered Committee.”

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