Kerala's political leadership, people, and the media should take the lead in prevailing on the Tamil Nadu government and the Union government about the urgent need for a new dam in place of the Mullaperiyar reservoir which is in a precarious state, participants at a discussion on the dam's safety said here on Thursday.
The discussion, which saw engineers and others air their views, was organised by the Coordination Committee of Gandhian Organisations. Most speakers expressed concern at the governments and courts focusing on the legal and political aspects of the issue, unmindful of the fact that lives of over 40 lakh people and the rich biodiversity are at stake.
“The dam has outlived its life span of around 50 years. Still, people think that quakes would rock only Japan and Indonesia. Smaller dams in the area too will give away if the one at Mullaperiyar is damaged,” said Nandanankutty Menon.
Water from the dam would gush into nearby areas and districts at a height of 42 feet and reach the Arabian Sea, leaving plenty of slush behind on the land. Steps should be taken on a war footing to build a new dam, he said.
Former executive engineer of the Public Works Department (PWD) P.M. Chacko said the possibility of a high-intensity earthquake in and around the dam cannot be wished away. Considering that the lives of lakhs of people living in eastern and central Kerala were at stake, disaster mitigation would not work. Thus, people should put pressure on the governments concerned to take measures to prevent a mass disaster, he said.
Another panelist R. Paramu said the 116-year-old dam might give away any moment. Till a new dam was built, the existing one could be strengthened by building an earthen pillar to support it. Reinforced concrete and other materials would have to be used for further supporting this structure, he said.
Social activist C.A. Vijayachandran spoke of how Kerala was sitting on a water bomb that might explode any moment. He said Tamil Nadu was taking a rigid and selfish stand on the issue, endangering the lives of people of Kerala.
“By demanding a ban on the movie ‘Dam 999,' politicians in Tamil Nadu are now attempting to stifle freedom of expression too. On its part, Kerala should form a Dam Safety Authority to ensure the safety of dam and prevail on the Centre so that a new dam could be built,” he said.
V.P.G. Marar presided.