A Supreme Court-appointed committee on the Mullaperiyar dam dispute began a meeting in New Delhi on Monday morning even as two Kerala ministers sat on a daylong fast - one in Kerala and another in the capital - over the issue.
State water resources minister PJ Joseph sat on a daylong fast in Delhi's Gandhi Smriti to "pray for change of mind of Tamil Nadu" and to pave way for a solution to the inter-state dispute.
Reports from Kerala said state revenue minister KM Mani began his daylong fast in Idukki - the district where the dam is located - pressing for the construction of a new dam.
In Delhi, MDMK leader Vaiko, meanwhile, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, demanding that central forces be deployed in Mullaperiyar to protect the dam from an "instigated mob".
The five-member empowered committee, headed by former chief justice of India AS Anand, began its meeting at the central water commission office in RK Puram, sources said.
The meet comes amidst protests and panic in Kerala about fresh cracks in the Mullaperiyar dam and recent tremors in the locality.
The protesters, who have the support of various political parties and social groups, say the collapse of the dam will endanger the lives 3.5 million people in four districts of Kerala.
Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa has said Kerala was whipping up panic and exaggerating the situation.
Besides Anand, the committee has two former Supreme Court judges - KT Thomas representing Kerala and AR Lakshman representing Tamil Nadu - and two former central government officials.
According to sources, the committee will consider the application of Kerala for lowering the water level in the dam to 120 ft.
The committee will also consider a Kerala government-sponsored report by the Indian Institute of Technology-Roorkee which says the dam faces threat in view of the earthquake-prone region, sources added.
The water of the 116-year-old Mullaperiyar dam is supplied to Tamil Nadu for drinking and irrigation as per the lease agreement undertaken between the erstwhile Travancore and the British India, to which Tamil Nadu belonged.
Kerala is demanding the construction of a new dam while Tamil Nadu refutes the demand, saying the dam is strong and has been periodically repaired.
Speaking to IANS, PJ Joseph said he was not protesting, but resorting to a non-violent Gandhian method of fasting for the “change of mind of Tamil Nadu and finding an amicable solution to the issue”.