The Supreme Court’s verdict, allowing Tamil Nadu to increase the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam to 142 feet from 136 feet will help the State store an additional 1,548 mcft of water to meet the irrigation and drinking water supply needs of five districts.
The 1,548 mcft is 25 per cent of the existing storage of 6,118 mcft of the dam at the permissible level of 136 feet. The storage at 142 feet will be 7,666 mcft.
Public Works Department officials are awaiting a Government Order to lower the shutters of 13 vents at the reservoir located in Kerala. “All the 13 vents are well maintained, and we are ready to lower the shutters anytime on getting instructions from the government,” Superintending Engineer (Periyar-Vaigai Basin Circle) C. Rajes said.
However, anxious farmers wanted the government to act faster to lower the shutters, located at 136 feet.
“Last time, when the Supreme Court gave a similar judgement in 2006, the State government failed to act swiftly, leading to Kerala stalling the procedure for eight years. We appeal to the political parties in Kerala not to make it a political issue. We also request the people of Kerala to realise that ours is a very just demand and help us raise the level, for Periyar water is the lifeline for five districts,” said M. Murugan, son of one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court M. Meenakshisundaram.
However, PWD officials are confident that Kerala cannot meddle with the court order any more.
Farmers welcomed the verdict, bursting crackers and distributing sweets at Melur.Wait for 35 years
The former PWD Executive Engineer, C. Suthanthira Amalraj, who had worked in the dam, said the old 10 vents were last lifted on December 17, 1979, to drain the water above 136 feet. (Subsequently, Tamil Nadu constructed three more vents as part of the work to strengthen the dam.) “Tamil Nadu and Kerala had agreed to lower the level in 1979 from 152 feet to 136 feet till the dam’s stability was strengthened. However, after all the works were completed in 2000, Kerala refused to allow the level to be raised,” he said.
He said the wait for 35 years was too long for Tamil Nadu, which had all rights over the dam and its water for irrigating 2.08 lakh acres in Theni, Dindigul, Madurai and Sivaganga.
Tamil Nadu is worried about increasing the storage more because of the constraint in drawing water. “A maximum of 2,200 cusecs can be drawn through the tunnel. Hence, when the dam receives a huge flow, the level raises quickly, and any storage above 136 feet has to be drained into Kerala, whereas Tamil Nadu requires more water for irrigation and drinking water supply,” he said.
Tamil Nadu had to release surplus water into Kerala 15 times between 1979 and 2005, he said.