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Reduce water level in Mullaperiyar dam, Supreme Court tells Tamil Nadu

On hearing all the parties, the bench ordered Tamil Nadu to ‘scrupulously’ follow the orders of the crisis management panel.

india Updated: Aug 17, 2018 22:53 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
: kerala rains,keral floods,heavy rains in kerala
A man rescues a drowning man from a flooded area after the opening of Idamalayr, Cheruthoni and Mullaperiyar dam shutters following heavy rains, on the outskirts of Kochi.(REUTERS)

A crisis management committee formed by the cabinet secretary has decided to reduce the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam of flood-hit Kerala, responding to a directive by the Supreme Court, the Centre informed the top court on Friday.

Additional solicitor general PS Narasimha placed before the court the committee’s decision, taken in consultation with a three-member panel set up by the top court in 2014, to manage the dam. An emergency meeting was called after the top court on Thursday asked the two committees to sit together and explore the possibility of reducing the water level in the dam.

Kerala, battling the heaviest rain and floods it has experienced in 80 years, has urged neighbouring Tamil Nadu to draw water from the dam so that it doesn’t brim over and aggravate the floods. The Mullaperiyar Dam has reached its full level of 142 feet and the Kerala government wanted the water level to be brought down to 139 feet.

According to Tamil Nadu, the water level had already crossed the maximum possible storage leve. Reduction will bring down the level to 139 feet so as to ensure the structural safety of the dam.

Narasimha made his submission before a bench led by chief justice Dipak Misra on a petition filed by Kerala residents asking for steps to ensure proper management of the dam. The petitioners wanted the court to order the Centre to constitute a statutory committee under the National Disaster Management Act. The lawyer for the petitioner alleged that Tamil Nadu had refused to abide by the panel formed by the top court to bring down the water level in the Dam.

On hearing all the parties, the bench ordered Tamil Nadu to ‘scrupulously’ follow the orders of the crisis management committee. It also asked the Kerala chief secretary to file an affidavit enumerating the rescue and rehabilitation steps taken in the state that has been receiving incessant rains this monsoon . It will hear the matter again on August 24.

Chief justice Misra said judges were no experts in measuring the dangers of water levels in the Mullaperiyar dam. “We are leaving it to the Executive. How can we do all this. We are not asking you to release but to ascertain whether water can be stored somewhere,” the CJI told senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, who on behalf of Tamil Nadu submitted that the release of more water will create more havoc.

Saying that the idea behind its hearing the petition is to help and rehabilitate those caught in Kerala floods, the judges said the national crisis management committee’s directions on rescue, relief and rehabilitation will be binding on the state government.

During the hearing on Thursday, SC had directed the Disaster Management sub-committee of the Mullaperiyar dam to consider reducing the water level up to 139 feet from 142 feet, considering the “grave” flood situation in all the 14 districts of Kerala. It advised the panel and the chief secretaries of Tamil Nadu and Kerala to hold talks through video conference if the physical presence of officials cannot be ensured.

“An effort has to be made to bring down the water level of the Mullaperiyar dam to 139 ft so that the people living downstream should not live in constant fear,” the bench had said.

The Tamil Nadu government had opposed the plea, saying the inflow of water was over 12,000 cusec in contrast to the outflow of 5,000 cusec.

First Published: Aug 17, 2018 14:03 IST