What the Mullaperiyar dam row is about
The 125-year-old dam is in the news again with the Kerala government demanding that a new dam be built citing safety concers, and the Tamil Nadu government is adamant in its stance that the dam is strong as it is.delhi Updated: Dec 05, 2011 17:42 IST
The 125-year-old dam is in the news again with the Kerala government demanding that a new dam be built citing safety concers, and the Tamil Nadu government is adamant in its stance that the dam is strong as it is.
In 1886 the Maharaja of Travancore and Secretary of State for India (now Tamil Nadu) signed an agreement for Periyar irrigation works. The lease was for 999 years, the Mullaperiyar Dam was constructed, as per the lease, during 1887-1895 across Periyar river in the then Travancore state (now Kerala).
On May 29, 1970, Tamil Nadu and Kerala government signed another agreement, according to which Tamil Nadu was permitted to generate electricity from the project. In return Tamil Nadu surrendered fishing rights in the leased land in favour of Kerala.
In 1979, reports appeared in Kerala Press about the safety of the Mullaperiyar Dam. On 25th November, 1979 the chairman of Central Water Commission held meetings in which authorities of both the states participated to decide on measures for strengthening the Dam. One of the emergency measures was to keep the shutters of the spillway raised fully to lower the reservoir level to 136 ft.
However, the following year, another meeting was help by the CWC in New Delhi and it was decided to restore the water level in the resevoir to 145 feet.
In 2006, the Supreme Court gave orders to raise the water level of the dam to 142 ft and the Government of Tamil Nadu was ordered to complete the strengthening measures.
But, in the same year the Kerala Government passed the Kerala Irrigation & water Conservation (Amendment) Act 2006, the act listed the Mullaperiyar dam in the list of "Endangered dams" and thus prohibited the raising of the water level beyond 136 ft.
Recurrence of mild tremors in Idukki district in Kerala has been causing concern over the safety of the Dam, and there are reports that the tremors have caused cracks in the dam.
The Kerala government is pressing on the construction of a new dam and has approched the Centre to permit the same.
The Tamil Nadu government, on the other hand, argues that the old structure refuses to agree for a new dam and says the old 125-year-old dam, now retrofitted, is as good as a new dam.
The issue has gone viral on the internet with predictions on the number of people that could die if the Dam does burst. Some have gone to the extend of comparing situation to the biblical story of 'Noah's ark'.