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State studying options, says Oommen Chandy

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Special Correspondent

Government thinking of filing a review petition: Thiruvanchoor

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Monday reacted with dignified restraint to the Supreme Court verdict in the Mullapperiyar case favouring Tamil Nadu.

Responding to questions from the media here, he said Kerala had argued against raising the reservoir level from the present maximum limit of 136 feet due to fears about the safety of the 111-year-old lime-and-mortar dam.

The Court was apparently not convinced about this argument and had permitted Tamil Nadu, which manages the affairs of the dam situated in Kerala, to hold water up to a level of 146 feet in the reservoir.

He said Kerala would decide on what to do next after getting legal opinion. He said Kerala had the best of relations with its neighbouring States and had no desire to harm the interests of Tamil Nadu.

Technical advice

Mr. Chandy said Kerala never wanted to deny Tamil Nadu water from this side of the border. "The technical advice we received was that the ancient dam is unsafe if water is impounded above the level of 136 feet in the reservoir," he said.

The Kerala Assembly had passed a legislation in August 2003 reserving for the State the right to decommission a dam, if found unsafe, by draining out the waters stored in its reservoir.

Asked whether Kerala would invoke the provisions of this legislation (Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation Act, 2003) in the context of the Supreme Court verdict, he said: "We have not studied the verdict in detail. We will seek legal opinion."

Minister for Water Resources Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, while talking to The Hindu over the phone, said the Government was considering filing a review petition against the Supreme Court verdict.

He said that as the Bench which allowed raising of the water level in the reservoir included the Chief Justice, the only option before the State now was to seek a review. The Government would decide on the matter after getting the text of the verdict.

Mr. Radhakrishnan said the safety of the people of Kerala was the prime concern of the State. Safety would not be compromised under any circumstances. No concession to Tamil Nadu was possible when the issue involved safety of the people of the State.

He said the Court verdict had gone against the State because of the findings of the expert committee, which had submitted its report in March 2001. The majority opinion of the committee was in favour of raising the water level though Kerala's representative on the committee had expressed his dissent.

Asked whether the State would allow the raising of the water level during the coming monsoon, he said the State would consider the question in the light of the outcome of the review petition. He was not pre-empting the Court with proposals for legislation or other measures.

He said the report on stability of Mullapperiyar dam in the light of earthquakes during the past decade, prepared by the Centre for Earth Science Studies here, had not been presented before the Court.

The important document before the Court was the report of the expert committee, which had representation from the National Water Commission besides the two States.

My stand vindicated: Swamy

Our Staff Reporter adds from Chennai: Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy on Monday said the Supreme Court judgment had vindicated his efforts since March 1998, when he first filed the petition in the Supreme Court.

In a statement, he said: "It also represents fulfilling my promise to the Madurai electorate that the 27-year dispute of Tamil farmers with the Kerala government will be resolved through the courts in their favour."

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