C.D. Thatte and D.K. Mehta are likely to submit report on December 26

Two technical members of the Empowered Committee — C.D. Thatte, former Secretary to the Ministry of Water Resources, and D.K. Mehta, retired Chief Engineer, Central Water Commission — will inspect the Mullaperiyar and Idukki dams from December 22 to 24.

The full committee, headed by the former Chief Justice of India, A.S. Anand, already conducted a spot inspection of the disputed Mullaperiyar dam in December last. It also heard the views of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Centre on the issues framed by it.

Subsequently, the committee entrusted conducting various studies in the dam, including marine and naval diving tests, to reputed institutes and they submitted reports.

Later, Kerala filed an application before the committee for a direction to Tamil Nadu to lower the storage level in the dam from 136 to 120 feet pending construction of a new reservoir in the area. Kerala filed it after withdrawing a similar application in the Supreme Court. Though the State also wanted all five members of the committee to visit the dam, only two technical members are now scheduled to make an inspection as per the agenda sent to the two States.

The two technical members, accompanied by engineers from both States will visit the Baby dam, the main Mullaperiyar dam and the Idukki dam, where tremors were reported recently, and assess the safety of the structure.

Sources told The Hindu that the technical members would submit their report to Justice Anand on December 26. The full panel will meet on January 2, 2012 to hear oral arguments from Kerala and Tamil Nadu on their applications.

Kerala said 25 earthquakes or tremors in the vicinity of the Mullaperiyar dam recently threatened the safety of the reservoir causing serious concern to 50 lakh people living in the downstream region. The Centre for Earth Science Studies had said if there was a tremor with a high magnitude of 6 or more, the dam would collapse.

The fear was heightened by incessant rain in the catchment area and the storage level rising above 136 feet, Kerala said, and wanted Tamil Nadu to bring down the water level to 120 feet. Tamil Nadu, however, refuted Kerala's claim that the dam would not be safe if the water level was maintained at 136 feet.

Dam safe: Tamil Nadu

In its response, Tamil Nadu reiterated that the dam was safe and that it had been permitted by the Supreme Court to raise the water level up to 142 feet and further to 152 feet after completing strengthening measures. It denied Kerala's assertion that 22 earthquakes/tremors occurred in the region between July 26 and November 26 and said that according to the India Meteorological Department information, there had been only four occurrences of earthquake in the Kottayam-Idukki region during this period.

Besides Justice Anand, two judicial members on the committee are Justices K.T. Thomas and A.R. Lakshmanan, retired Supreme Court judges representing Kerala and Tamil Nadu respectively.