Kerala begins evacuation as TN set to release water from Mullaperiyar
State water resources minister Roshy Augustine said all arrangements have been made, and there is no need for panic. A native of the district, Augustine has also called a meeting of district officials on Friday to monitor the situation.
The Kerala government on Thursday initiated the process of evacuating over 800 families living in the downstream areas of the Mullaperiyar dam after the neighbouring Tamil Nadu announced its decision to open spillways on Friday.
Idukki district collector Sheeba George has already announced an alert in the district and ordered the shifting of people from nearby areas of the dam. State water resources minister Roshy Augustine said all arrangements have been made, and there is no need for panic. A native of the district, Augustine has also called a meeting of district officials on Friday to monitor the situation.
“We will shift 3,220 people belonging to 884 families. We are keeping a strict vigil. We have opened enough relief camps. This is only a precautionary measure, and there is no need of panic,” the minister said, adding that the Tamil Nadu government hasn’t announced the exact quantum of water to be released.
Districts officials said once the water is released, it will reach the first downstream village Vallakadavu in 20 minutes, and the Idukki reservoir will be filled by noon. Initially, spillways of the reservoir will be opened to ease pressure, and if needed, shutters will also be opened. Sluice gates of the Idukki reservoir were opened two weeks ago after catchment areas received heavy downpours. Fast floods and landslides induced by heavy rains claimed 40 lives in two districts, Kottayam and Idukki on October 17.
One of the oldest dams of the country, neighbouring states Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been fighting over the water level of Mullaperiyar for many years. While Kerala wants to build a new dam citing frequent tremors and changing rain patterns in the Idukki district, Tamil Nadu opposed it fearing the loss of control over it. After the 2014 SC verdict, Tamil Nadu carried out repairs and retrofitted, but Kerala maintained that these measures were not enough to check the dam’s durability.
The dam was built under an agreement between the erstwhile royal family of Travancore and the British administration in 1886 to take water to famine-hit Tamil Nadu for irrigation. Post-independence, the dam became part of Kerala, and since then, its main share of water flows to the southern districts of Tamil Nadu.
The contentious issue came up before the apex court on Monday after a resident of Idukki, Dr Joe Joseph, approached it with a plea that the water level should not go above 139 feet because of heavy rains in the area. The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that the dam supervisory committee’s view to maintain water level at 139.5 feet till Nov 10 should be met. While hearing the case the TN counsel said Kerala was whipping up fear unnecessarily but Kerala maintained that a new dam is a final solution.