SC adjourns to Dec. 15 hearing on Mullaperiyar dam’s safety concerns

Tamil Nadu sought time to respond to new issues raised by Kerala

December 10, 2021 02:51 pm | Updated 02:51 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Recently, the Kerala government moved the court complaining that Tamil Nadu was not giving prior information to it before opening the spillway shutters of the dam. File Image.

Recently, the Kerala government moved the court complaining that Tamil Nadu was not giving prior information to it before opening the spillway shutters of the dam. File Image.

The Supreme Court on Friday adjourned to December 15 a hearing on safety concerns about the Mullaperiyar dam after Tamil Nadu sought time to respond to new issues raised by Kerala .

A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar initially posted the case to December 11, but senior advocate Shekhar Naphade informed the court that fresh applications have been filed in the case and Tamil Nadu would like to have time to file its reply.

Recently, the Kerala government moved the court complaining that Tamil Nadu was not giving prior information to it before opening the spillway shutters of the dam. It submitted that heavy flow from the dam was a source of unease for those living downstream. It sought the formation of a technical committee comprising representatives of both States to ensure that water is released from the dam on its recommendation and after giving due warning to the disaster management authorities in Kerala. It said heavy rainfall in the area has increased the water level in the dam.

The court had fixed the case on December 10 to hear comprehensively and pass directions on the diverse petitions filed on the various aspects of safety, maintenance of the dam and security of those living near it.

The Tamil Nadu government has so far stood firm by its position in the court that the dam is “hydrologically, structurally and seismically safe”. It had blamed a “social media campaign” triggered in Kerala against the dam. It said the steady flow of petitions to the court from Kerala, questioning the dam’s safety, even calling for its decommissioning, was a bid to harass it. It accused Kerala of trying “somehow to prevent Tamil Nadu to raise the level to 142 ft. at the Mullaiperiyar dam on one pretext or the other by raising issues which have been fully addressed by experts from Central Water Commission [CWC]”.

Tamil Nadu, in an affidavit, said the safety of the dam had been supported by reports of the expert committee and the empowered committee after extensive study. The height of storage level at 142 ft. was endorsed by the court in 2014 in a judgment.

The dam’s safety aspectsare being constantly monitored by the Supervisory Committee set up seven years ago.

Issues “thrashed out”

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, for the Supervisory Committee, had maintained that the issues were “thrashed out” between Kerala and Tamil Nadu in several meetings.

Kerala, in turn, had been demanding a reconsideration of the rule curve as the dam is situated in a seismic zone. It had accused Tamil Nadu of adopting an “obsolete” gate operation schedule dating back to 1939.

The court is hearing a petition filed by Dr. Joe Joseph and office-bearers of the Kothamangalam block panchayat in Kerala expressing their apprehensions about the lack of proper supervision of water levels in the dam located along the Periyar tiger reserve.

The petitioners, including Dr. Joseph, an Idukki resident, had accused the Supervisory Committee of having become “lethargical” in the safety inspection and survey of the dam, saying it has delegated its duties to a sub-committee of local officials.

Advocate V.K. Biju, appearing for Idukki-based Periyar Protection Movement, had alleged there was “deep” seepage issues in the dam structure. He said Tamil Nadu cannot dismiss the apprehensions of 50 lakh people in Kerala about the safety of the dam by calling it a “social media campaign”.

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