SC directs panel to specify maximum water level at Mullaperiyar dam

Kerala said the water level should not go above 139 feet, the same as what the court had ordered on August 24, 2018 when the State was hit by flood.

Published - October 25, 2021 01:56 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

File photo of Mullaperiyar Dam on Kerala-Tamil Nadu border at Kumily, near Idukki

File photo of Mullaperiyar Dam on Kerala-Tamil Nadu border at Kumily, near Idukki

The Supreme Court on October 25 directed the Supervisory Committee to take an immediate and firm decision on the maximum water level that can be maintained at Mullaperiyar dam amidst torrential rains in Kerala.

Kerala said the water level should not go above 139 feet, the same as what the court had ordered on August 24, 2018 when the State was hit by flood.

Tamil Nadu , on the other hand, informed the court that the level in the dam was 137.2 ft at 9 a.m. on October 25. Tamil Nadu Additional Advocate General V. Krishnamurthy said officials of his State were already interacting with those in Kerala on the ground situation. The Kerala Chief Minister has written to his Tamil Nadu counterpart.

“He [Kerala CM] has only said that they should be informed early before the opening of the shutters,” Mr. Krishnamurthy submitted.

He said the inflow into the reservoir was 2,220 cusecs and the outflow was 2,200 cusecs. Mr. Krishnamurthy said heavy rainfall was not expected for the next five days. As regards Kerala's contention to not raise the water level beyond 139 feet, he said the Supreme Court had, in judgments in 2006 and 2014, fixed the maximum water level at 142 feet

The court asked Kerala/Tamil Nadu officials to interact responsibility and avert any danger to lives.

‘Don’t play politics’

The Supreme Court made it clear that this was not an issue to play politics about.

The court directed the Supervisory Committee to get to work as there was “an immediate need to specify the maximum water level in the dam” because of the rains.

The order came in a petition filed by Idukki resident Joe Joseph and office-bearers of the Kothamangalam block panchayat in Kerala, who had expressed their apprehensions about the supervision of water levels in the Mullaperiyar dam located along the Periyar tiger reserve, especially during the rainy season.

“For the last one week, it has been raining heavily in Kerala. The lives of 50 lakh people would be in danger if the water level in the dam is raised,” advocate Wills Mathews, for Mr. Joseph, submitted.

“Please understand the anxieties of the parties involved. You take stock of the situation, decide and tell us what to do... We cannot decide the level sitting here,” Justice Khanwilkar addressed Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the committee.

Kerala, represented by senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, repeatedly insisted that the court should ask Tamil Nadu to maintain the level at 137.2 feet as per the 2018 order. He said this level should be maintained until the committee decided in a day or two. Mr. Gupta countered Tamil Nadu's claim there would be no rain in the next few days.

“When there is a risk, one should err on the side of caution,” Mr. Gupta suggested.

Justice Khanwilkar retorted that States should have seriously interacted with each other and approached the Supervisory Committee, considering the seriousness of the issue involved.

“This is something that has to be done seriously... This court should not be made into a political arena... It is because of inaction on your part that we are made to decide this here,” Justice Khanwilkar addressed Mr. Gupta.

On August 24, 2018, the court had agreed that the water level in the Mullaperiyar reservoir should be maintained two or three feet below the permissible limit of 142 feet till August 31 as an immediate precaution to guard against floods or other disasters.

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