Mullaperiyar: Kerala invokes ‘precautionary principle’

Kerala has invoked the “precautionary principle” in the light of extreme rainfall witnessed in certain parts of the country, including Chennai, to present its case for the construction of a new dam in place of the centuries-old Mullaperiyar dam, besides seeking a review of its hydrological safety by a panel of international and national experts.

The new line, which has been prominently highlighted in Kerala’s memorandum submitted by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi, is expected help the State get a grip on the Mullaperiyar issue and pull it out of the impasse created by the Supreme Court verdict.

Risk prevention

Apart from the usual issues related to the safety of the dam and the concerns of people living downstream, the State has contended that the precautionary principle warrants risk prevention through proactive measures against specific environment or safety risk. “When the scientific evidence of safety is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain, we should not hesitate to invoke the precautionary principle,” the memorandum said and quoted the 1984 Bermen Ministerial Declaration of the International Conference on the protection of the North Sea to contend that states must not wait for proof of harmful effects before taking action.

If unprecedented rain in an arid region like Chennai can cause unimaginable devastation, or the floods in Srinagar, Uttarakhand for that matter, one cannot rule out such occurrence in other places. In the context of such extreme rainfall events, the State now wants a review of the Probable Maximum Flood estimation of the Mullaperiyar dam. The earlier study conducted by IIT, Delhi, was on the basis of possible extreme rainfall of around 650 mm in a span of two days. The State’s contention is that if Chennai could register 300 mm in a day, there is no way of predicting what is in store for Mullaperiyar. The review of PMF is warranted in the light of the different conclusions of the Empowered Committee, the Central Water Commission and IIT, Delhi. The 1980 CWC study needed a fresh look since it was not based on any scientific principles. The values of PMF and levels of siltation and other basic parameters adopted by the CWC should be reviewed using latest data and modern meteorology standards.

Mr. Chandy also pressed for a proactive stand by the Centre to persuade Tamil Nadu to come to the negotiating table for a permanent solution — construction of a new dam.

“Safety is never been static and the judgment of the Supreme Court cannot be cited as a hindrance to take precautionary measures. Experts’ expectations and calculations go awry when nature has its own way”. The State has also asked for resuming the clearance for environment impact assessment for the new dam, which had been revoked in December 2014.

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 10:23:11 AM |

Next Story