Tamil Nadu

T.N. moves contempt plea over dam plan

The Tamil Nadu government on Friday moved a contempt of court petition in connection with issuing Terms of Reference (ToR) favouring Kerala government’s “unilateral and suo motu” proposal to construct a new dam 366 m downstream of the Mullaiperiyar Dam.

The government filed the petition against C.K. Mishra, Union Environment Secretary; Dr. S. Kerketta, Member Secretary, Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and Hydro Projects, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change; Tom Jose, Kerala Chief Secretary; and K.H. Shamsudeen, Chief Engineer, Office of the Chief Engineer Investigation and Designs, IDRB.

The petition said that Kerala’s proposal for a new dam was in clear violation and utter disregard of a May 2014 Supreme Court judgment in the Mullaperiyar case. The court had specifically directed Tamil Nadu and Kerala to amicably agree to a new dam.

Operational problems

Tamil Nadu said that carrying out any work just downstream of the existing Mullaperiyar dam would create operational problems to the existing dam under its control.

The petition said that on August 23 last year, Kerala, through the IDRB chief engineer, wrote to the Environment Secretary seeking clearance for a new dam to replace the existing one “allegedly based on safety consideration”.

The petition said Kerala had submitted that the “old dam has outlived its useful life” and that “Tamil Nadu realizing the genuine apprehension and fears in the minds of the people of Kerala will arrive at an amicable solution with Kerala”.

The Expert Appraisal Committee had in September acceded to the request and recommended that ToR be issued to Kerala’s proposal to collect base line data to conduct a study on the proposed dam project.

On hearing about this development, Tamil Nadu had written a series of letters to the Centre, the EAC and Kerala Chief Secretary to desist from going ahead with the project against the court’s verdict.

The Chief Minister had even written to the Prime Minister appraising him about the apex court judgment of 2014.

However, the petition said the MoEF Secretary had responded in a letter on November 8 that ToR were recommended by the EAC in view of the recent floods in Kerala and the condition of the existing dam which is 123 years old. “It was further stated granting ToR to the project does not necessarily mean that the project is eligible for getting Environmental Clearance (EC)...” the petition quoted the letter.

The petition said the statement in the grant of ToR that the dam has “already outlived its useful life” amounts to contempt of the apex court judgment which had found the dam safe “in all respects”.

“Further, the Supervisory Committee appointed by the SC, monitoring the performance of the dam, is of the consistent view that the dam is safe,” Tamil Nadu contended.

The State also pointed out how a similar proposal for a new dam by Kerala was de-listed by the EAC in 2015.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 9:45:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tn-moves-contempt-plea-over-dam-plan/article25915489.ece

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