Mullaperiyar dam case: T.N. rejects Survey of India report on mega parking project, SC fixes July 10 to finalise legal issues

The survey report filed by the Survey of India to the effect that the construction of mega car park is outside the leased area is factually incorrect, said an affidavit filed by Tamil Nadu.

April 22, 2024 03:29 pm | Updated 04:57 pm IST - NEW DELHI

 A view of Mullaperiyar Dam on Kerala-Tamil Nadu border at Kumily, near Idukki. File

A view of Mullaperiyar Dam on Kerala-Tamil Nadu border at Kumily, near Idukki. File | Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

The Supreme Court on Monday fixed July 10 for finalising the legal issues to be heard and decided by it in an original suit filed by Tamil Nadu against neighbouring Kerala over the construction of a mega parking project near the Mullaperiyar dam.

A Bench headed by Justice A.S. Oka recorded Tamil Nadu’s objection to the findings of the Survey of India report on the parking project.

“The survey report filed by the Survey of India to the effect that the construction of mega car park is outside the leased area is factually incorrect,” an affidavit filed by Tamil Nadu, represented by senior advocates V. Krishnamurthy, P. Wilson, G. Umapathy, and advocate D. Kumanan, said.

In November last year, the Supreme Court had directed the Survey of India to examine and file a report before it on whether a mega car parking project envisaged by Kerala near the Mullaperiyar dam area entered the property covered by the Periyar Lake Lease Agreement of October 1886. The October 29, 1886 lease indenture was for a period of 999 years and signed between the Maharaja of Travancore and the Secretary of State for India for the Periyar Irrigation works.

A Bench had asked the Survey of India to first demarcate and survey the area covered by the lease deed, and then ascertain if the construction of the car park entered into any part of the lease deed area.

The Tamil Nadu affidavit said the Survey of India Team ought to have approached suitable agency like Central Soil and Materials Research Station for the purpose of ascertaining the original ground level, instead of arriving at a conclusion based on presumption and surmises.

“The conclusion drawn by the survey team that the entire mega car park construction is outside the leased area is incorrect, unscientific and hence denied… By encroaching the water spread area and filling it with materials like red soil, gravel, concrete, paver block, etc, and by constructing structures, the spill zone capacity of the reservoir is affected. The maximum water level of the reservoir is 155 ft. Filling up the water spread area to bring the level above 155 ft will affect the flood regulation to the extent of filling,” the affidavit said.

The court gave Kerala four weeks to file its response. Both States were asked to file draft legal issues for adjudication by the court. On July 10, the court would finalise and frame the issues to be decided in the suit.

The Tamil Nadu government had initially approached the Supreme Court against the decision of the National Green Tribunal allowing Kerala to go ahead with a “mega car parking” project in the water spread area of the Mullaperiyar dam.

Tamil Nadu had submitted that the car parking project was located in the area leased it. The project, which involved various supplementary construction activities, would environmentally affect the catchment area, the water spread area of the dam and consequently the waters of the reservoir, used for drinking and irrigation purposes by the people of five districts of Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu had argued that Kerala, represented by senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, had already encroached about 2.5 acres, and through this project, proposed to take over about 20 acres in the water spread area of the dam for parking vehicles and construction of reception blocks, cafeteria, sewage treatment plant, eco-shops complex, thematic arboretums, landscaping, etc, intended for tourism and commercial activities.

Responding to Tamil Nadu’s objections about its alleged proposal for a “mega car parking space” and other super structures in the dam area, Kerala had initially denied that the “Agreement of 1886 creates an interest in the lands and the Plaintiff State of Tamil Nadu is entitled to enjoy property to the exclusion of the lessee, ie, Defendant State (Kerala). It is also denied that the State of Tamil Nadu is in possession of the land, much less exclusive possession”.

Further, Kerala had denied that the area marked for car parking fell in the water spread area of the Mullaperiyar dam.

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