A human chain stretching over 208 km and across two districts of Kerala was formed Thursday to press the state's demand for a new dam to replace the 115-year-old leaking Mullaperiyar masonry dam, said an organiser from the Left Democratic Front (LDF).
This was the second longest human chain ever formed in the state. Over 30 lakh Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) activists Oct 2, 2009, formed a 500-km human chain to protest a free trade agreement signed between New Delhi and the Association of South East Asian Nations.
The 208-km human chain formed Thursday was completed around 4 p.m. Its one end was close to the dam site and the other was near the Arabian sea at Kochi in Ernakulam district.
People stood shoulder to shoulder and repeated the common statement which was announced over the microphone.
The statement read: "Kerala's four million people's life is in danger because the present 115-year-old Mullaperiyar Dam is shaky after 28 tremors hit the area in and around the dam site in the past nine months."
"We also wish to state that the present water sharing agreement with Tamil Nadu will be honoured," the chain makers said.
The call for forming the human chain was given by the CPI-M-led LDF and the participants included people from all sections of society.
The first in the human chain in Idukki district to reiterate the state's position was CPI-M legislator EP Jayarajan. At the other end of the human chain in Ernakulam, it was Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, who stood at the Marine Drive overlooking the Arabian Sea in Kochi.
CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, who was standing in the human chain in front of a marquee where party legislator S. Rajendran was on fast in Vandiperiyar in Idukki district, told a public meeting that though the human chain was organised by the LDF, people from all sections of society took part in it.
"Experts have pointed out that if an earthquake measuring six on the Richter scale takes place, then the present dam will be washed away and an irreparable loss will take place, and hence we demand that the only solution to this is a new dam," said Vijayan.
At Kochi, Achuthanandan took a dig at the manner in which the advocate general (K.P. Dandapani) made a mess of the government's stand over the issue in the Kerala High Court last week.
In the state capital, state Congress president Ramesh Chennithala took part in a day-long fast along with his party colleagues and demanded that the only solution to the problem was a new dam.
Earlier in the day, an assembly committee led by Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph visited the Mullaperiyar Dam area.
The state assembly would have a special day-long sitting Friday to discuss the dam situation.
Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads over the dam, built under an 1886 accord between the then Maharaja of Travancore and the erstwhile British R serve Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu wants the dam's storage capacity to be increased by raising the dam height from 136 feet (41.5 metres) to 142 feet (43 metres) as the state's irrigation needs had shot up.
Kerala is worried that a strong earthquake might damage the dam and cause widespread destruction. It is seeking a new dam and has offered to fund and build it, but Tamil Nadu does not agree.